This Party is Off the Hook! A Miniguide to Party Optimization (by GelationousOctahedron) plus 10 Rules of Party Optimization (by Rancid_Rogue) and Radiant Team (by borg 285)
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  1. #1

    This Party is Off the Hook! A Miniguide to Party Optimization (by GelationousOctahedron) plus 10 Rules of Party Optimization (by Rancid_Rogue) and Radiant Team (by borg 285)

    Originally posted by GelatinousOctahedron:

    This Party is Off the Hook!
    A Miniguide To Party Optimization



    4E is a team game. You can create characters in a vacuum if you want, but the most effective characters are those in parties are here the characters are created to work in a group and to complement each other.

    One of the most common questions I see on these boards is what character should I add to my party. I love those threads and this guide is a place to discuss how to improve parties as a whole and if you have a question about what character you should add to your party, this is the place to ask. Please contribute any strategy suggestions in the comments an politely argue away about what you think is more important to a party.

    This guide will discuss the basics: The importance of Roles, how to fill in gaps, skills, range vs. melee, character synergies, party size, and any thing else people think is important enough to include.
    Posts:
    Intro
    Roles
    Range vs. Melee
    Synergies
    Skills(x)
    Party Size(x)
    Other
    (x)
    Last edited by LightWarden; Friday, 30th October, 2015 at 01:16 AM.

  2. #2
    Originally posted by GelatinousOctahedron:

    Roles

    Which is most important and why?

    The general charop consensus seems to be that the two most important roles are leader and striker, with defender coming in a respectable third and controller last.  Others put defenders in front of strikers and some put leader as second.  There is no where near universal agreement about this and many would put defender above striker and a few would put leader as second.  My view is Leader > Striker > Defender > Controller, but with many caveats.  I would rather have a second striker, defender, or 1st controller in a party before a second leader in a party of five most of the time, but still think leader is the role I would least want to go without in a party of 3 or more. 

    And with controller more than any other role it depends on the player and build.  In my own experience I have seen very effective controllers that were a major asset to the party and ones that barely contributed.

    What does each role bring to the table?

    Defenders
    All defenders can mark and should be able to punish enemies for ignoring the mark or for trying to move away from them.  They should also be tough: able to take attacks through good defenses, high hitpoints and surges and also be able to shrug off conditions

    Strikers
    Mobility and damage.  Also many strikers have ways of protecting themselves (but not allies) from enemies.  Strikers also tend to be a bit sneakier than the other classes and often make good scouts.

    Leaders
    Leaders should be able to add healing, ally buffing/enemy debuffing, enabling extra movement and attacks, and grant saves/remove conditions.

    Controllers
    The hardest roll to define and thought by many to be the least important of the 4 roles.  A good controller can still add a lot to a party: minion clearing and mutitarget damage, terrain modification, forced movement, action denial, and status effects.  Usually larger parties benefit more from a controller since there are often more enemies thrown at the party at the same time, which is where many controllers shine since more targets gives you more scope for delaying some enemies from engaging, more opportunity for effective AoE damage, and better options for AoE placement.
     
    Minoring in a role

    Many classes have strong minors in other roles: Paladins can heal with lay on hands, making them like leaders; warlocks have debuffing making them like controllers; some wizards boost their DPR enough to minor in striker; bear shamans can use their spirit to mark their enemies and punish them for moving away.  The majority of the time they do not do this as well the primary class, but putting in one or two well built minoring characters can go a long way to making up for a party gap. 

    Who minors in what role:

    This is a list of the general ways that different builds have minors.  I am more than willing to improve on the definition of minoring but for now:  Defender means marking and/or being tough on the front line.  Striker means high DPR for your role.  Leader means ally healing, status removal, action granting, or buffing.  Minoring in controller means lots of AoE, inflicting status effects, or forced movement. 
     
    Minors in Defender
    Spoiler:

    Strikers:
    Rageblood Barbarian
    Pursuit Avenger
    Iron Arms Monk

    Leaders:
    Battle Cleric
    Bear Shaman
    Most Warlords
    Wrathful Runepriest
    Valor Bard
    Enlightened Ardent

    Controllers:
    Swarm Druid (Depends on AC and HAE)
    Staff Wizards
    Protecting Seeker


    Minors in Striker
    Spoiler:

    Defenders
    2-h Fighter
    Ardent Paladin
    Assault Swordmage

    Leaders
    Stalker Shaman
    Euphoric Ardent

    Controllers
    Blaster Wizard
    Predator Druid
    Wrathful Invoker
    Vengeful Seeker


    Minors in Leader
    Spoiler:

    Defenders
    Virtue Paladin
    Lay on Hands Paladin
    Lifeblood Warden

    Strikers
    Thaneborn Barbarian

    Controllers
    Preserving Invoker


    Minors in Controller
    Spoiler:


    Defenders

    Most Polearm Builds for defenders
    Shield Fighter
    Earthstrength Wardens
    Stormheart Wardens
    Ensaring Swordmage

    Strikers
    Warlocks
    Sorcerers
    Monks
    Thunderborn Barbarian

    Leaders
    Bards (especially prescient and cunning)
    WorldSpeaker Shaman
    Laser Cleric
    Pacifist Cleric
    Defiant Runepriest

    Other ways to minor in a role

    Mulitclassing: Almost any character can multiclass to get a class feature of another class.  Powers swap feats can add to any area your character is lacking.  

    Paragon paths: both from your own class and other classes can emphasize another role.  If you really need to minor in something, thid route can be one of the more effective choices, but be careful since the trend recently is to make it hard for members of a different class to get the full benefit of another classes paragon paths.

    Hybrid: There is too much about hybrids to go into here, but hyrbids allow you to do two roles at once.  Usually you will not do either role as well as someone devoted to just one of the roles, but it is an option.

    Items: Again, there are many items out there that will help supplement you in areas which are not your primary role

    What to do for a party missing a role


    Muliclassing and power swaps are good for many of these cases.  This does not always work and in some cases a role feature is built into a class like the fighter marking enemies he attacks, but there are many times where mutlicassing can give you part of role, such as picking up the paladin or warden marks once an encounter or a daily heal power from a leader.  The first parts below are from Tiornys, with the "my advice" parts following.

    Missing a Defender

    defender
    Spoiler:
    A party missing a defender has fewer overall resources and reduced ability to control melee combat. They are more vulnerable to focused fire and lockdown of ranged characters.

    Desired encounter resources:
    1-2 ways to allow self/an ally to escape undesired melee
    1-2 strong defensive buffs, including resistances, bonuses to defenses, and temp HPs

    Tactical considerations: use formations to make it costly for the enemies to all engage a single target, especially one that the enemies have been focusing on. Primarily ranged characters should invest in a decent melee option or place an even higher priority on being able to escape melee or avoid OA's when making ranged/area attacks.

    My Advice: Up the other characters ability to take and avoid hits.  Try to rotate who takes the hits between encounters if possible.  Use summons or pets when possible to create some sort of front line.  You can also use characters that do need defending and these fall into two general categories: porcupines (generally strikers who punish enemies for attacking/approaching them) and high defense characters (also usually strikers).  Examples of porcupines are riposete strike using brutal scoundrel rpgues or infernal locks using hellish rebuke.  Examples of high defense charcters are defensive focused monks or pursuit avengers.


    Missing a Striker


    striker
    Spoiler:

    A party missing a striker has a harder time dealing with high priority targets, especially those protected by terrain and/or front line creatures. They are more vulnerable to high powered artillery and controllers.

    Desired encounter resources:
    1-2 high damage single target powers per party member
    Half of the party either strong at range or having ability to bypass obstacles to get to protected targets

    Tactical considerations: focusing fire becomes more important with the party's damage output more evenly spread across its members. Strong control from controllers or sticky defenders can enable 1-2 party members to lock down part of the enemy while the rest of the party focuses on a convenient target.

    My advice: Up your DPR.  Almost any class can do this, but for classes like two hand talent fighters, ardent paladins, predator druids, blaster wizards etc you can get your damage to be close enough to that of a striker to pass as one.  For leaders you also need to be concentrating on upping the damage of your party members most of the time through granting extra attacks to your fellow PCs, helping those attacks to hit, and increasing the damage of the attacks that do hit.


    Missing a Leader


    leader
    Spoiler:
    A party missing a leader has access to fewer resources in combat, and has a harder time recovering from adversity. They are more vulnerable to ambushes, losing initiative, and controllers.

    Desired encounter resources:
    1-2 ways to access surges without using a standard action on second wind
    Multiple ways to gain action advantage on the enemy

    Tactical considerations: avoidance of reckless tactics becomes more important in a party with fewer ways to help a character who gets in trouble. However, the party can't play too defensively or their resources will be overwhelmed. Focus on dropping the enemy as quickly as possible without taking undue risks. Investment in initiative and anti-ambush skills is even more important than normal.

    My Advice: The most obvious thing you need to replace is the midcombat healing.  This can be done through some classes that minor in leader like life spirit wardens and lay on hands paladins.  You can pick up multiclass 1/day heals through all of the leader feats except shaman, which lets you get 1/encounter heal while costing 2 feats.  Many leader powers heal as well so this is a case where power swapping feats might be worth it.  Several skill powers can also provide some healing.  Don't forget that any character can use second wind and many characters can generate enough temporary hitpoints to reduce their need for healing.  Item healing is another way, with potions being the most readily available way to heal.  There are a few other ones out there like a healing weapon and river of life gloves that as daily powers let allies heal.

    The other part of this role is the save granting, ally buffing/enemydebuffing, and party enabling and those are a bit harder to replace.  For divine characters a number of channel divinity feats replicate leader effects like buffing/debuffing and healing.  There are a number of  items like the steadfast ammulet and holy symbol of hope that either grant extra saves or grant bonuses to saves.  A few classes can boost ally attacks through their powers like barbarians.


    Missing a Controller


    controller
    Spoiler:
    A party missing a controller has a harder time dealing with situations where they are outnumbered. They are more vulnerable to horde tactics, enemy leaders, and well coordinated enemy forces.

    Desired encounter resources:
    1-2 AoE powers
    Some form of efficient minion clearing, possibly including 1-2 extra AoE powers
    1-2 single target lockdown/debuff powers

    Tactical considerations: without a character dedicated to disrupting the enemy plan, pay more attention to cleanly executing a plan based on the party's strengths. A striker heavy party should concentrate their fire, a leader heavy party should try to synergize buffs/debuffs, and a defender heavy party should keep multiple enemies occupied.

    My Advice: The good thing about controller is that many classes already provide some control, both through multitarget attacks and through debuffing attacks.  Getting a character like a centerred breath monk, polearm fighter, or lazer cleric to have a strong minor in controller is very easy.  Right now many controllers have very good dailiy attacks and pick up their control more from powers than through class features so poaching a daily or hybridding works better for controllers than for the other four roles most of the time.

  3. #3
    Originally posted by GelatinousOctahedron:

    Range vs. Melee

    What is the proper ratio?

    You need melee characters to build a front line in most parties. You also need ranged characters to take care of flying enemies and enemies that are otherwise at a distance you can't reach through melee. The general consensus seems to be that you need to be at about 3 Melee for every 2 Ranged, with one of those being far ranged (10+). If you do not have a party of 5 or ten that exact ratio is hard to hit exactly. There are also exceptions to this and one of the most effective parties I have heard of was of a group of bow rangers who all MC shaman to make the spirit companions work as the front line.

    What builds can do both?

    These classes all have fairly common builds that can fight fairly well both at range and melee. You can always hand a melee character a javelin, but that sort of build would not count unless you went for a more specific spear/shield build that was actually effective at range.
    both
    Spoiler:

    Defenders
    Charisma Paladins
    Spear/shield fighters

    Strikers
    Warlocks
    Avengers
    Str/Dex Rangers
    Dragon Sorcerers
    Dagger Rogues

    Leaders
    Shamans (spirit for melee, shaman for ranged)
    Balanced Clerics
    Bards
    Ranged Warlords
    Artificers

    Controllers
    Staff Wizards/WoST
    Druids
    Protector Seeker


    Making a front line

    Almost all parties need some sort of front line to help protect the squishier back line party members. Usually this is made up of at least one defender and at least one other characters that can hold their own at least some of the time. Most often these are the builds mentioned above that minor in defender like battle cleric and rageblood barbarian, but also includes summoner classes like the shaman, artificer, invoker, and wizard who can either always or often put summons on the front line in their place.

    Originally posted by GelatinousOctahedron:

    Synergies

    Who plays well together

    Powers that work well together:



    Sample Synergized Teams

    Optimized Part Core(x). This thread has examples of many three PC teams that all work well together.

    Here are some examples of teams that other people have put together that work well:

    team synergies
    Team Jedi(x) (exploits radiant damage)
    Originally posted by borg285:

    Spoiler:

    This thread is to brainstorm synergestic powers/items/feats... for radiant teams or lightsaber teams because everybody is either wielding a radiant weapon or focused on doing radiant damage.

    Team Jedi
    Administration of Radiant Vulnerability

    -Morninglord PP

    Requires worshiping amunator

    16th level ability: hit a foe with a radiant power, foe gains vulnerable 10 radiant. Note that this applies before damage is dealt thus applies to the damage roll.

    Pure glow (11 enc power) burst 5, Int/Wis/Cha vs will; radiant damage and they take 10 radiant when their turn comes up. Easily does 50 damage for double dipping on radiant

    -Power of the Sun

    Hit with {Lance of faith(cleric), Radiant vengeance(Avenger), Sun Strike(Invoker), Virtuous Strike(Paladin)} and administer vulnerable 3/5/8 radiant

    -Solar enemy

    Channel divinity power. (minor) Targets all enemies in a close burst 2. Administers/increases radiant vulnerability by 5.

    -Brightleaf(125 gp reagent, cheap enough to spam for every attack) use a radiant power of up to 5th level and administer vulnerable 5 radiant. Comes in a paragon(10 vuln.) version at 3400 gp / use but that extra 5 damage/hit might be worth it.

    Pick an at-will and if 125 gp is pocket change spam this to kingdom come.

    Ruinous Resistance(warlock 16 utility daily) give vulnerability 5 radiant and fire for whole encounter

    Jedi's tools

    Punishing Radiance (epic feat, any divine class): Score a crit with radiatn and all foes within 5 gain/increase vulnerability 10.

    Radiant Advantage(epic feat, cleric): deal radiant damage = you and allies gain CA till end of your next turn.

    Font of Radiance(epic feat): score a crit with radiant foe glows(save ends). While glowing any enemy that starts their turn in affected square (critted foe and all adjacent) take 3d6 radiant damage. Areas do not stack.

    Student of Ciaphon (Starlock PP) crit with radiant/fear on 18-20.
    Action Point: power gives ongoing 5 radiant(save ends)

    Radiant servant(cleric PP) crit with radiant on 19-20.
    Action point: ongoing = level radiant damage(save ends)
    Solar Wrath(enc burst 8 vs will) radiant. Must use 18 level Brightleaf (3400 gp) to administer radiant vulnerability)
    Demons and undead beware

    Boon: Pelor's Sun Blessing(level 3) add con/wis to damage to those vulnerable to radiant

    Gifts from Pelor (what you give to other team members that don't want to convert)

    Radiant weapon (level 15, any weapon) adds enhancement to damage. Does radiant damage and makes the power a radiant power.

    Bless Weapon(Paladin utility 2 daily): gives weapon +1 attack, +1d6 radiant damage, if foe attacked by blessed weapon user can crit on 18-20.

    Armor of Burning Wrath(invoker) makes armor of wrath deal radiant damage

    Radiant Breath (dragonborn feat) make your breath radiant. It also gives your breath the radiant keyword. Rod of the dragonborn, while it doesn't add on the keywords, does make the damage type radiant which might be enough

    Radiant Power (deva implement user feat) -2 to hit, attack deal 2/4/6 radiant damage. Does not confer the keyword.

    Hero of faith (MC avenger, req: 15 wis): if you meet the requirements and are melee this feat is pure gold and a great opener to the following 2 things

    Pervasive Light
    (divine feat) hit with non-radiant power you deal extra damage equal to the vulnerability. Best way to get this is MC divine (did I hear hero of faith) and then take this feat.

    Symbol of Divine light
    (level 15 Holy Symbol) Property: any enemy with vulnerability to radiant within 5 has that vulnerability increased by 5. Simply have everyone take a MC [divine] and wear one of these. The damage will go through the roof.

    Radiant Hunter (ranger MC [divine] Paragon feat): your Hunter's quarry damage deal radiant damage. This is a lesser feat than pervasive light.

    Misc

    Nimbus of Light(feat), hit with encounter/daily radiant power you create a burst 1 giving all allies +1 power bonus with radiant powers. Sadly it's typed so we can't do better than having 1-2 maxing out this feat for the team.

    Astral Fire(feat) implement users version of weapon focus but for radiant and fire powers

    Glowstone(consumable cheap thing) standard action to ignite, affects only undead but triggers their radiant vulnerability when they start within 2 of where you threw the stone.

    Stone of X (level 12 wondrous item) If you can get 5 members in your party to each have 1 of these you all get this following wonderful vacation package: +2 init, +1 item bonus to saving throws.

    Radiant Team candidates

    Divine feycharger(striker | defender): I'd like to swap out TWF/TWO for Weakening challenge and forceful challenge to better fulfill the defender roll. Took arcane mutterings to become the party face using his pimped arcane bonus towards diplomacy/bluff/intimidate.

    Cleric / morninglord(healer controler ): Focused on bursts and healing

    [Controler] What do you have in mind?

    [Striker] Can you do better than the feycharger?

    Math to show superiority of radiant teams

    I know that this trick works for any vulnerability administration, but radiant is the easiest to get.

    Let's take a look at a PC with a radiant weapon with n members in the team each wearing a symbol of divine light. Assume ranger hit using a brightleaf reagent thus administering radiant 5 vulnerability the last round.

    n=1 |
    +10 damage (5 vulnerability + 5*1 symbol) | 10/1 = +10/team member
    n=2 |
    +30 damage (2(5 vulnerability + 5*2 symbol)) | 30/2 = +15/team member
    n=3 |
    +60 damage (3(5 vulnerability + 5*3 symbol)) | 60/3 = +20/team member
    n=4 |
    +100 damage (4(5 vulnerability + 5*4 symbol)) | 100/4 = +25/team member
    ...

    We can see that as we increase the number of team members the total increase in damage for each team member goes up.



    Please contribute to this thread by brainstorming items/feats.... that synergize well with a radiant team.


    Spoiler:
    Originally posted by auspex7:

    Controller-- Deva (Preserving) Invoker/Student of Caiphon/Radiant One with Staff of Ruin seems great, right off the top of my head.

    Hand of Radiance gives him a 45% chance to fire up Punishing Radiance each turn. If you don't mind cutting that down a tad, you can make it the same, except substituting Radiant Servant, instead. That gives him access to Cleric implements, which lets him wear a Symbol of Divine Light, and he's still got a 30% chance to crit each turn with HoR.



    For others... nothing is going to out-do the Divine Feycharger, but... for this group, throwing in an Avenger/Angelic Avenger/Radiant One is entertaining. Adding Radiant Advantage at 21st, any bloodied enemy within 5 (?--I don't have books in front of me at the moment) of him take Radiant damage, which causes them to then give up CA, which then causes them to take even MORE Radiant Damage from Starborn (Radiant One lvl 21 feature). IE, they just melt away.




    Originally posted by borg285:

    Where is radiant one

    Wouldn't an Invoker | cleric do better as he could use holy symbol/staff/rods for all his attacks, then MC warlock for Student of ciaphon or would radiant servent be better there?


    Originally posted by auspex7:

    Where is radiant one


    Radiant One is wonky in character builder right now, but it's on page 54 or 56 of the Dragon Annual 2009. First page after the Student of Caiphon entry. Requires only level 21. Whenever you have CA and deal damage, you deal extra Radiant damage equal to Int mod as part of the level 21 feature.
    Pretty sexy.


    Originally posted by auspex7:

    Where is radiant one

    Wouldn't an Invoker | cleric do better as he could use holy symbol/staff/rods for all his attacks, then MC warlock for Student of ciaphon or would radiant servent be better there?
    The Hybrid is a good option. Even provides some heal support through Utilities. Picks up Consecrated Ground at 5th... I like it!

    Originally posted by borg285:

    After giving it some thought I think a ranger with a radiant bow using dual arrows would have a greater chance of triggering crits

    4 d20 with twin strike on 2 targets


    Originally posted by auspex7:

    After giving it some thought I think a ranger with a radiant bow using dual arrows would have a greater chance of triggering crits

    4 d20 with twin strike on 2 targets
    That's a 39.5% chance per turn-- 19.75% per target crit rate (assuming Mastery).
    Actually, I forgot that HoR is 4 attacks at 21st. 15% each vs 4 targets = 60% total chance to crit per turn. He's also slapping CA on up to 4 targets per turn.


    Originally posted by borg285:


    After giving it some thought I think a ranger with a radiant bow using dual arrows would have a greater chance of triggering crits

    4 d20 with twin strike on 2 targets
    That's a 39.5% chance per turn-- 19.75% per target crit rate (assuming Mastery).
    Actually, I forgot that HoR is 4 attacks at 21st. 15% each vs 4 targets = 60% total chance to crit per turn. He's also slapping CA on up to 4 targets per turn.
    That is what tips the scales. HoR's 4 attacks is the best way of doing punishing radiance. The CA I could care less about. Increasing everybody's vulnerability is what does it for me.

    Originally posted by Mengu74:

    Don't forget Pelor's Sun Blessing for adding damage equal to Wisdom or Con modifier. Cleric, Invoker, Paladin, Avenger, and even some Rangers, Fighters, Barbarians, Wardens, Starlocks, etc. can capitalize on that against targets with Radiant vulnerability.


    Originally posted by borg285:

    After some thinking trying to optimize for crit fishing thus triggering punishing radiance, the feycharger gets the most d20 rolls out of anyone I can think of.

    Invoker's hand of radiance 4d20

    1/2 elf/ranger dual arrow twin strike w/ radiant bow = 4d20

    1/2 elf/ranger hero of faith + twin strike w/ radiant weapon = 4d20

    Even punisher of the gods only ups that by a bit

    feycharger: charge + ESA + dancing + riposte/aegis + keeper's prescience = 5d20

    The best thing I can think to do is to merge a controller invoker with a healer cleric so that he either administers vulnerability or heals the party.

    What are some of your thoughts?


    Originally posted by auspex7:

    Here's a quick slap-up. The Acolyte Power swap of Mass Cure Light Wounds for Ethereal Sidestep would actually go down as a retrain of Improved Initiative to Acolyte Power in that slot at Epic, allowing MCLW all the way through Paragon. This should be playable from 1st-30th, and do very well for a group. The Powers selected are completely flexible. I just did a quick grab.

    THE Hand of Radiance Human Invoker|Cleric/Student of Caiphon/Radiant One.

    ====== Created Using Wizards of the Coast D&D Character Builder ======
    The Hand of Radiance, level 30
    Human, Cleric|Invoker, Student of Caiphon, Radiant One
    Covenant Manifestation: Manifestation of Preservation
    Hybrid Invoker: Hybrid Invoker Fortitude
    Pact Initiate: Pact Initiate (star pact)
    Background: Geography - Forest (Nature class skill)

    FINAL ABILITY SCORES
    Str 10, Con 13, Dex 12, Int 24, Wis 26, Cha 15.

    STARTING ABILITY SCORES
    Str 8, Con 11, Dex 10, Int 16, Wis 16, Cha 13.

    AC: 43 Fort: 39 Reflex: 41 Will: 43
    HP: 155 Surges: 7 Surge Value: 38

    TRAINED SKILLS
    History +27, Arcana +27, Religion +27, Nature +28, Insight +28

    UNTRAINED SKILLS
    Acrobatics +15, Bluff +17, Diplomacy +17, Dungeoneering +23, Endurance +15, Heal +23, Intimidate +17, Perception +24, Stealth +15, Streetwise +17, Thievery +15, Athletics +14

    FEATS
    Human: Implement Expertise (staff)
    Level 1: Pact Initiate
    Level 2: Toughness
    Level 4: Power of the Moon
    Level 6: Starfire Womb
    Level 8: Invoker Defense
    Level 10: Acolyte Power
    Level 11: Invoker's Blaze
    Level 12: Devastating Critical
    Level 14: Paragon Defenses (retrained to Robust Defenses at Level 22)
    Level 16: Psychic Lock (retrained to Punishing Radiance at Level 21)
    Level 18: Pervasive Light
    Level 20: Reserve Maneuver
    Level 21: Radiant Advantage
    Level 22: Devastating Invocation
    Level 24: Font of Radiance
    Level 26: Divine Mastery
    Level 28: Supreme Healer
    Level 30: Invoked Devastation

    POWERS
    Bonus At-Will Power: Sun Strike
    Hybrid Cleric at-will 1: Sacred Flame
    Hybrid Invoker at-will 1: Hand of Radiance
    Reserve Maneuver: Rain of Blood
    Hybrid encounter 1: Divine Glow
    Hybrid daily 1: Crown of Retaliation
    Hybrid utility 2: Divine Protection
    Hybrid encounter 3: Sun Hammer
    Hybrid daily 5: Consecrated Ground
    Hybrid utility 6: Bastion of Health
    Hybrid encounter 7: Searing Light
    Hybrid daily 9: Flame Strike
    Hybrid utility 10: Mass Cure Light Wounds (retrained to Etheral Sidestep at Acolyte Power)
    Hybrid encounter 13: Mantle of Glory (replaces Divine Glow)
    Hybrid daily 15: Brilliant Censure (replaces Crown of Retaliation)
    Hybrid utility 16: Radiant Beams
    Hybrid encounter 17: Astral Dust (replaces Sun Hammer)
    Hybrid daily 19: Summon Angel of Light (replaces Flame Strike)
    Hybrid utility 22: Invoke Angelic Form
    Hybrid encounter 23: Healing Torch (replaces Searing Light)
    Hybrid daily 25: Anthem of the First Dawn (replaces Consecrated Ground)
    Hybrid encounter 27: Sunburst (replaces Astral Dust)
    Hybrid daily 29: Fires of the Silver Gate (replaces Summon Angel of Light)

    ITEMS
    Staff of Ruin +6, Symbol of Divine Light +6, Dawn Warrior Elderhide Armor +6, War Ring (paragon tier) (2), Many-Fingered Gloves (paragon tier), Ring of the Radiant Storm (paragon tier), Spark Slippers (paragon tier), Far-Step Amulet +6, Clockwork Cowl (epic tier), Executioner's Bracers (epic tier), Belt of Vim (epic tier), Eager Hero's Tattoo (paragon tier)

    Juicy Tidbits:
    -- Hits with Hand of Radiance give untyped -2 penalty to Reflex until end of next turn. (Power of Moon)
    -- Any time he deals Radiant damage, he gets CA.
    -- Any time he deals damage while he has CA, he deals +7 Radiant (Int mod-- Starborn. Radiant One 21 feature). This includes dealing damage from effects like his neat-o Spark Slippers.
    -- He rolls twice on all Radiant damage rolls, taking the higher number (Ring of the Radiant Storm)
    -- He gets an extra +2 Radiant damage per hit (Gifts for the Queen bonus, 2 pieces-- slippers, ring)
    -- He gets an extra 2d10 on crits from War Rings.
    -- He gets an extra 1d10 on crits from Devastating Critical.
    --Whenever he crits with a Radiant attack (Hand of Radiance...) all targets within 5 squares of the target gain Vuln 15 Radiant (Punishing Radiance, Symbol of Divine Light)
    -- Whenever he crits, all targets within 5 squares of the target take 13 damage of the same type as the attack-- ie, 13 Radiant from Hand of Radiance... which means 28 due to Punishing Radiance, or 35 if he has dealt Radiant damage to the guys hit on the previous turn (Starborn).
    -- Font of Radiance... you know how this goes.
    -- When any enemy moves into a square adjacent to him, they take 2 Radiant (Spark Slippers), unless he has already dealt Radiant damage to them on the previous turn, in which case he has CA, and deals 9 Radiant... and gives himself CA against them.
    -- His blasts and bursts are each increased in size by 1 increment.
    -- 4 HoR bolts x 15% crit rate each = 60% total crit chance per turn.

    At 30th, his base Hand of Radiance is +32 vs Reflex, 1d4+25 damage. Because of Power of Moon and Radiant Advantage, that becomes effectively +36 vs Ref, 1d4+32 (damage hike from Starborn/Radiant One) per target not counting any Radiant explosions.

    I can't begin to calculate his total damage output per turn. This might require more bookkeeping than anything I've ever put together.


    Originally posted by auspex7:

    After some thinking trying to optimize for crit fishing thus triggering punishing radiance, the feycharger gets the most d20 rolls out of anyone I can think of.

    Invoker's hand of radiance 4d20

    1/2 elf/ranger dual arrow twin strike w/ radiant bow = 4d20

    1/2 elf/ranger hero of faith + twin strike w/ radiant weapon = 4d20

    Even punisher of the gods only ups that by a bit

    feycharger: charge + ESA + dancing + riposte/aegis + keeper's prescience = 5d20

    The best thing I can think to do is to merge a controller invoker with a healer cleric so that he either administers vulnerability or heals the party.

    What are some of your thoughts?
    You have to remember that the 4d20s being rolled by the Invoker are critting on 18-20 each. 60% total crit rate per turn, and spread over 4 targets, rather than the Feycharger's attacks being applied to one target. Because of the 4 target spread, the Invoker can catch crits on multiple seperate targets, spreading Radiant Vuln accross a huge section of real estate.
    Alternately, the Invoker can dump HoR shots into targets near each other, giving him a 60% chance to apply it to all four targets by critting any of the 4, and then gets to tap into the Vuln 4 times on the following turn by hitting each target again. This basically gives him moderate Striker level damage--to four targets at once.


    Originally posted by Lord_Ventnor:

    An idea for a possible Defender is an Ensnaring Swordmage, who goes Arcane Hunter at Paragon Tier. Considering that this team is all about inflicting radiant vulnerabilities on enemies, and the Arcane Hunter's schtick is to take advantage of an vulnerability that the enemy has, I think that it can work.


    Originally posted by auspex7:

    You know, when it comes down to it, you can probably just roll with a party of Divine Feychargers and call it good. If we're talking about this as an exercise without using Feychargers, there's a discussion to be had, but if not, a party of 5 really doesn't need anything else. When you're talking about 500 DPR monsters, Vuln kind of flies out the window.


    Originally posted by borg285:


    After some thinking trying to optimize for crit fishing thus triggering punishing radiance, the feycharger gets the most d20 rolls out of anyone I can think of.

    Invoker's hand of radiance 4d20

    1/2 elf/ranger dual arrow twin strike w/ radiant bow = 4d20

    1/2 elf/ranger hero of faith + twin strike w/ radiant weapon = 4d20

    Even punisher of the gods only ups that by a bit

    feycharger: charge + ESA + dancing + riposte/aegis + keeper's prescience = 5d20

    The best thing I can think to do is to merge a controller invoker with a healer cleric so that he either administers vulnerability or heals the party.

    What are some of your thoughts?
    You have to remember that the 4d20s being rolled by the Invoker are critting on 18-20 each. 60% total crit rate per turn, and spread over 4 targets, rather than the Feycharger's attacks being applied to one target. Because of the 4 target spread, the Invoker can catch crits on multiple seperate targets, spreading Radiant Vuln accross a huge section of real estate.
    Alternately, the Invoker can dump HoR shots into targets near each other, giving him a 60% chance to apply it to all four targets by critting any of the 4, and then gets to tap into the Vuln 4 times on the following turn by hitting each target again. This basically gives him moderate Striker level damage--to four targets at once.
    Punishing radiance increases vulnerability so that if he crits on the same target 5 times all foes within 5 get their vulnerability increased by 10. Your HoR only has 4 chances to roll, the feycharger has 5, but still amazing. I'll post my builds I think are the best.

    Originally posted by borg285:

    link to post(x)

    What these builds have going for them:
    they both have a woverine tatoo + blood fury weapon and use a minor action at the beginning of combat to get a small boost
    All members of the team have a Stone of Light if there are 5 members of the party. This will give everybody a +2 init and +1 to saves. Honestly only the cleric will have a hard time saving as the feychargers, using virtous strike 4 times/round, will have around +6-+8 to saves.
    Feycharger
    I'll not regurgitate the superiority of the feycharger but explain the differences where they exist.
    Weakening challenge: A superb defender style feat that weakens his mark
    Forceful Challenge: again a suberb defender feat that slides his mark away if they attack others.
    Arcane muttereings: use that arcane check for other things outside of trick of knowledge
    Radiant shield, Enervating Smite, Silverlight Strike, Reaper's Challenge all are great defender type powers that almost force the attacker to focus on you and impossible/unrealistic to attack others.

    Cleric
    I tried to merge the healer and controler into one and I've done a great job.
    Astral seal heals 28+2d6 + saving throw + 2 to defenses + resist 5 cold/fire + deals damage equal to their vulnerability due to pervasive light and gives foe -2 defences. That's a major buff and debuff.
    Hand of radiance crits on 19-20 and has 4 attacks. If I crit: Font of radiance, Punishing radiance (stacks each time I crit), Epic resurgence gets back an encounter power (1/enc),
    Versatile master + twin strike + dual arrows = 4d20 on one target if facing a solo. Can crit up to 2 times with very high probability. Radiant attack that still administers vulnerability due to brightleaf. I even have a decent dex so they will also hit as often as a normal char.
    Spider bolt, dispelling bolt, astral seal, others make good controller powers. With twin strike they are very likely to sink and still fulfill job of administering radiant vulnerability.
    Major focus on burst/blast powers

    One thing I need to do is rearrange feats so that they are playable through all levels. The feycharger is a hard one, but would serve as a great defender from 1-16.


    Originally posted by borg285:

    I just realized that only the cheesed out feycharger has 5 attacks / round. He actually gets to roll 5d20/ round (4 attacks and keeper's prescience). The more standard ones have only 4 attacks/round which puts them on par with the invoker student of ciaphon, which I've converted to. The increased crit chance leads to better team play as getting a crit is definitely worth going from radiant servant to ciaphon.

    With using Punisher of the gods as my Cleric | Invloker / Student of ciaphon / Punisher I've calculated my expected number of crits / round

    Twin strike using dual arrows and an 18-20 crit range getting an at-will(twin strike) every time I crit leads to the following calculation

    chance to crit base = .15, chance to not crit = .85

    chance that twin strike crits = 1-.854 (2 attacks each 2 rolls) = .478 to crit with twin strike

    expected number of crits = 1/(1-r) where r = chance to crit recursively

    1/(1-.478) = 1.91 expected crits / round. Ouch. I think that outdoes the radiant one by just a bit, then again it's punisher of the gods (post-nerfed).


    Originally posted by auspex7:

    Yeah, post-nerf PotG getting frequent turns with two HoRs does beat out the Radiant One. I'm still conditioned to avoid PotG like the Plague, so I hadn't even looked at that as an ED for this exercise.


    Originally posted by borg285:

    Any idea on how to make a radiant team viable in heroic? What feats are the best exploited?

    a level 6 item costs 1800 which can buy 14.4 brightleaf reagents. if every member of the team bough 6 of these the team(5 members) would have 30 costing each member 750 gp, quite doable at level 6.

    Another option is to go for a power of the sun based team. Perhaps avenger would be the most common team member.

    Any thoughts?


    Originally posted by Mengu74:

    A Drow Paladin with Brilliant Darkfire and Solar Enemy can induce radiant vulnerability twice per round. A few more characters with Solar enemy and one or two with Power of the Sun will be handy as well. A Rod of Starlight will only be available at high heroic tier and the vulnerability is not that big but it's an option. Everyone should be either wisdom based or wisdom/con secondary to make use of Pelor's Sun Blessing.

    Maybe a group like:

    Drow Paladin of Pelor, Virtuous Strike; Power of the Sun, Brilliant Darkfire, Solar Enemy, Hero of Faith; Pelor's Sun Blessing

    Shifter Paladin of Kord, Holy Strike; Power of Strength, Hero of Faith; Pelor's Sun Blessing (nothing says Kord worshipper can't have this).

    Deva Leading Avenger, Leading Strike; Solar Enemy; Sun Blade, Pelor's Sun Blessing

    Kalashtar Devoted Cleric, Lance of Faith; Solar Enemy, Power of the Sun; Pelor's Sun Blessing

    Dwarf Wrathful Invoker, Hand of Radiance; Power of the Moon; Pelor's Sun Blessing

    One of the paladins could maybe be replaced with an Avenger, but some Avenger multiclassing brings almost as much to the table as being an avenger. The Cleric and the Drow Paladin will be the primary radiant vulnerability inducers. The invoker is there for two reasons, whenever multiple targets gain the vulnerability via Solar enemy, he can capitalize quickly with multiple attacks. And anything he hits will be easier for the cleric to later hit with Lance of Faith.

    There is probably enough versatility in this group to cover most weaknesses too.


    Originally posted by auspex7:

    OK... for Heroic tier, without heavy item cost required:

    1. Defender-- Paladin with Power of Sun. He takes PoS so he can serve as a back-up 'spotter' for this group, but actually uses Holy Strike as his go-to At-Will. Bless Weapon at 2nd, naturally.

    2. Controller, heal support, and our 'spotter' for the group-- the Invoker|Cleric we used before, with some At-Will changes. He uses Sun Strike and Lance of Faith, with Hand of Radiance as his bonus At-Will. His go-to is probably Lance of Faith to set up Radiant vuln and give allies help tapping into it. Symbol of Divine Reach for the implement, with Staff of Ruin as his other.

    3 & 4. Strikers. Two Human (Retribution) Avengers with Sunblade Fullblades and Battle Awareness, as well as Fury's Advance. Each of these and the Bond of Retribution rider provide extra chances to tap into Radiant vuln while it's up.

    5. Leader-- Obviously a Cleric with Power of Sun, using Lance of Faith when able to help keep up Radiant Vuln on the target.



    Just some quick stuff. The way I see it playing out at a normal table, the Invoker and full Cleric each use LoF, and the others burn down the vuln targets quickly. If they have to split fire, the Cleric and Invoker split targets, with the Paladin attacking the Cleric's target, and the Invoker and the Avengers focusing on the other.

    It's only vuln 3, but Solar Enemy gives further opportunity for extra.

    I'm not a huge fan of builds that require constant expenditure to keep up. Salves of Power or other consumables turn me off quick.


    Originally posted by borg285:

    It looks like heroic jedi team is quite difficult to pull off as it requires constant planning to get in the edge. Paragon we at least have pervasive light. This has been quite a learning experience.


    Originally posted by mrmyth:

    A build I haven't seen suggested yet:

    A Dragonborn Warlock or Sorcerer, multiclassed into a divine class for Radiant Breath, using a Rod of the Dragonborn, does radiant damage with all their attacks. Both have good accuracy due to Draconic Spellcaster. Warlock lets one go Student of Caiphon for even more radiant abuse, while Sorcerer simply lets you inflict lots of damage to lots of enemies. Either would seem to fit well in "Team Radiant".
    Last edited by LightWarden; Friday, 30th October, 2015 at 01:15 AM.

  4. #4
    Skills

    Which skills are most important?

    You want to have all of the skills covered if possible, but some skills are more valuable than others.  Some are also better to have combined in one character such as:
    Scouting/exploring: stealth/thievery/perception/athletics (need dex/wis/str)
    Social Skills: bluff/diplomacy/insight/intimidate/streetwise  (need cha/wis)
    Ritual Casting: arcana/nature/religion/heal (need int/wis)

    1st Tier: At least one person in party needs this.  For perception especially it is good for as many characters as possible to have it.
    Perception
    Insight
    Stealth
    Thievery
    Heal

    2nd Tier:
    It is good for at least one character to have these.  These are particularly important for social skills and rituals, so one PC can usually specialize in these.
    Arcana
    Religion
    Nature
    Athletics
    Bluff
    Diplomacy
    Intimidate

    3rd Tier:
    Useful for individuals, but not party essentials.
    History
    Dungeoneering
    Acrobatics
    Endurance
    streetwise

    Ways to replace skills

    A few skills can be replaced by using feats.  The feat Dungeon Experience lets you use dungeoneering skill for lock and traps, which means any high wisdom character with the dungeoneering skill can make up for lake of dex focused character.

    Ritual Casting

    Someone in your party probably needs this, either by default or by spending a feat for it.  Not everyone thinks this is that valuable and you can always buy scrolls, but it is better to have this just in case.  Here are the classes that get it for free: Artificer, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Invoker, Psion, Wizard.

  5. #5
    Originally posted by GelatinousOctahedron:

    Party Size

    What is the ideal party size?

    4E is designed around having 5 characters in a party.  Other sizes work fine, and most people on this discussion board have had good experiences with parties from 3-6 characters in size.  Less than 3 tends to be a bit tricky since unless you hybrid you are missing full members of two roles.  More than 6 tends to bog down some.  It is easier to make sure your get each role, skill, etc. filled, but solo leaders and defenders can get stretched a bit thin.  The following is general advice for each party size.

    What to do if I have 2 members?

    2 PCs
    Spoiler:

    This is one of the hardest ones to answer, but poster sanityfaerie gave some good advice in this thread(x) about two character parties:

    "- First, to consider ranged/melee
      - Really, everyone needs to be able to function in either here.  You will find yourself in cases where range damage is the only thing that matters (when the enemy controller that is making the rest of the fight miserable is flying, for example), and in those cases, you don't really have enough people for anyone to sit it out.  You will find yourself in cases where you are swarmed, and in those cases, everyone had better be prepared to function at least reasonably well in hand-to-hand.  There are caveats - if you have a ranged-heavy striker, then you might be able to get away with having your second character be pure melee - but being able to function in both is pretty valuable

    - Second, let's look at roles.
      - Leader: You'll want some.  You don't necessarily need a full one.  Things like having one or both party members as dwarves, having a paladin, and/or 2-feat MCing to shaman for the healing spirit can cover you here reasonably well.  The healing here is critical, because you can't afford to let either character drop.  At the same time, the buffing is often less valuable, because you don't have as many fellow PCs to buff.  A two-player party is no place for a lazy warlord.
      - Defender: There's really two ways to go here.  You can go true defender/squishy, but it's probably not worth it.  The guy in the back will be too fragile, and the guy in the front will have to spend more build range than it's worth to get enough stickiness.  The other option, and by far the more sane here, is to go with a pair of characters, both of whom are relatively durable.  If you're going ranged/melee pair (where one character intends to spend most of their time in melee, and the other intends to spend most of their time in the back ranks) then clearly the guy in front should be investing *somewhat* more heavily in durability, but it's still the case that he won't be as sticky as a defender - the party doesn't have enough resources overall to make it worthwhile to have him as sticky as a defender - so more folks will get past, and your other character needs to be able to handle that.
      - Striker: damage is good.  Damage is always good.  More damage is better.  In this party, you cannot afford to have anyone who isn't at least reasonably good at dealing damage, and the more striker you can fit in, the better.
      - Controller: Special case here.  Ignore the controller role.  Instead, thing about controller effects.  At a basic level, don't pay for effects that you can't use.  If you're stacking forced movement, you should know what you intend to do with it.  If you're stacking dazes, you should know why.  The controller role is one of those things that you get as much as you pay for, so make sure that you only pay for things that will help you.

    - Third, take synergy.
    You're going to have one other PC to work with, and if one of you goes down and doesn't come back up almost immediately, you've probably both lost already.  Working out two-player synergies can be a really good thing for you.  Things like this involve...
    - Prone, daze, prone-exploitation, and CA-exploitation: A relatively simple set that's really quite difficult to put together all in one character, but becomes significantly easier with two.  Prone+daze is an excellent way to take an enemy out of the fight, prone+prone-exploit can reap some serious damage rewards, prone or daze alone with some forced movement can limit the enemy's choices pretty significantly, and both prone and daze grant CA (in addition to making it easier to maneuver for flanking).
    - Vuln and vuln-exploitation: frostcombo, radiant mafia, and even necrotic via blightbeast: Often even better in a full-party setting, but work just fine with two-player

    - Fourth, special considerations.
    There are things to bear in mind as a limited-size party....
    - Radiant damage.  It would be really very helpful if you could manage at least one PC with at-will access to radiant damage, just because of all fo the undead that are so much less pleasant when you have to go without.  At the same time, being completely beholden to any one damage type is both very easy for a two-person party trying to work the synergies and potentially lethal.
    - CA: flanking is a lot harder to come by when there's only one other person in the party.  Rogues are still playable, but they'll need to have a plan from level 1 on how they're going to get their CA
    - Attack-granting: becomes a lot less useful when you only have one other person to grant attacks to.
    - Charging: you cannot charge if the enemies are all adjacent to you, and that's a lot more likely in a party of 2

    Fifth, skills - if yours is a campaign that will care about skills at all.
    - You'll probably want wisdom.
    - You'll probably want charisma.
    - You'll probably want intelligence
    - You may want dex
    Of course, this doesn't mesh well with reality - particularly since you'll likely want a fair bit of con as well."


    What to do if I have 3 members?

    3 PCs
    Spoiler:


    You will not be able to cover all 4 roles all the way for sure.  So you are going to need to have someone at least minor in whatever role or roles you are missing.  If you have to go without one role, controller is probably the best to drop since they are more useful in larger parties. 

    Here is some good advice from Auspex7 in a thread (x)about 3 member parties

    Small Parties at the Table:

    a) Small parties mean smaller numbers of enemies, because of the encounter budget system. The only way this isn't true is if you're facing a slew of minions.

    --Nova and front-loaded offense gains value against smaller numbers of enemies, as you are removing a higher % of incoming damage and control from the grid with each individual monster you kill.

    --With fewer targets on the grid, you're generally able to apply Novas and other damage bursts more quickly, as clear paths are more readily available, and the process of identifying key targets (example-- playing the ever-popular, "Whose Aura Is It?!") becomes quicker.

    b) With small parties, each individual's offensive output has a higher impact, because it represents a larger % of the party's total offense. Pacifists lose their shine in 3 man parties for this reason. Similarly, high-octane Leaders gain shine for the same reason.

    c) with smaller numbers of enemies on the grid, the total drain on a Leader's healing ability is reduced. Simply put, when you're the only Leader in a party of 5, you've got a lot more ground to cover, and your healing has to offset a higher volume of incoming damage (from the increased number of monsters on the grid).

    d) with smaller numbers of monsters on the grid, control becomes a bigger consideration. Again, this is a direct reflection of the % of each Team constituted by any one creature.

    I don't think anyone will (or could) argue with those points.

    Optimization 'needs' for a 3-man party:

    a) Defender, Leader, and... offense. You don't want anyone to be lacking in punch, because any one of you could be hit with control effects. Example: Chaladin, Pacifist Cleric, Ranger. If that Ranger gets slapped with a stun, you're not putting out very much damage that turn.

    b) an emergency heal, in case the Leader gets blitzed."




    What to do if I have 4 members?


    What to do if I have 5 members?

    What to do if I have 6 members?

    What to do if I have 7+ members?



    Originally posted by GelatinousOctahedron:

    Other 

    10 rules of Party Optimzation(x) Full of good advice.

  6. #6
    Originally posted by Rancid_Rogue:

    FIFTH REVISION

    25MAY11: So today there was a thread asking about party optimization and I thought, "What's my one and only guide, chopped liver?" Only in checking it for the first time in ages I discovered the s-blocks were all f-locked up. And in fixing that I saw things were a little dated, so ... a not quite revision today.

    27OCT10: Given that langeweile was gracious enough to link to this guide in his own treatise on alpha striking(x), I finally feel compelled to update. The game has changed dramatically since my last update, and we’ve still yet to see the full impact of the Essentials line. (25MAY11: Still true!) Posts 4 through 133 will make very little sense given that they discuss many dead topics.

    Opinions will differ strongly(x) on what's the proper sequence of adding roles to the party. The advice here is solid and battle-tested, but certainly not writ in stone. 

    RULE 1: Determine Campaign Type. How Much Can We Get Away With?
    Spoiler:

    Every party design should hinge upon this point: What kind of campaign is this? The answer has a huge impact on two fundamental questions: First, what is the tipping point for alpha-striking in this campaign? And second, how important are skills and/or rituals for my party?

    Though the CO board is filled with advocates of kill-them-before-they-can-blink tactics, the game designers are demonstrating with the Essentials line that they are among those who beg to differ. And alpha-striking does have two major drawbacks. First, it can make the game boring for the DM, and without the DM there is no game. Second, the more alpha-strike capacity in a party, the narrower the margin between yet another by-the-numbers 2-round slaughter of Team Monster and a TPK. Before designing a party that deals thousands of hits in the first two rounds, consider the nature of the campaign. Should it last for years with a heavy emphasis on roleplaying? Then pull way back on the alpha-striking. Is it a convention one-off? Then knock yourself out. Just keep in mind that the foremost example of real-life alpha-striking is the raid on Pearl Harbor, which was tactically brilliant but strategically foolish. The DM is at all times the sleeping giant.
    Skills and rituals generally have an inverse relationship to alpha-striking. In a long-term roleplaying campaign, an optimized party will have an expert in every skill and at least one PC who can efficiently cast the more important rituals. (Assuming that the DM hasn’t abandoned rituals entirely in his campaign.) No convention one-off is going to hinge upon whether one of the PCs can overcome a nasty skill challenge featuring History and Dungeoneering …

    This guide is heavily biased toward optimizing for a long-term campaign with heavy emphasis on roleplaying. Its goal is to help establish a well-rounded party that does not have fundamental weaknesses that the DM must be shrewd enough to recognize and charitable enough to avoid if a TPK isn’t his intent.


    RULE 2: Consider a Keyword Theme. Speaking of How Much Can We Get Away With . . .
    Spoiler:

    If every member of the party deals damage around a common keyword theme, this can have large synergistic effects. If you decide to go this route, then all of your following decisions need to be filtered through the needs of the keyword theme. As of now, only three keywords offer this sort of potential: cold, psychic, and radiant.
    A cold-themed party intends to take advantage of “Frost Cheese” or “PermaFrost” via the Wintertouched and Lasting Frost feats. These builds tend to be very reliant on having the right gear, so this probably won’t work if the campaign embraces some form of the new item rarity rules. There aren’t enough top-shelf powers with the cold keyword, so building a gear-independent frost team probably will have more opportunity cost than it’s worth.

    The psychic-themed party is a relatively new concept. It would be centered around an Ardent spamming 1-point Ire Strikes. Possibly only the striker would need specific gear (eg, Githyanki Silver weapons), making it less equipment-dependent and more damaging than the cold theme. Note that this party should be built around a basic attack rather than multiattack striker (see Rule 3) for two reasons. First, Ire Strike serves a big MBA best. Second, though the Ardent isn’t a premium leader, the Talaric Strategist PP allows him to fake it. As a level 16+ Strategist, he can grant three extra attacks to any teammates who take Agile Opportunist. Again, a big MBA benefits most from this.

    The radiant-themed party, or “Radiant Mafia,” is the gold standard of exploding DPR via keyword synergy. Any character can take a divine MC (if necessary) and Pervasive Light and deal faux radiant damage, so gear dependence is very limited, though the two feats do represent a significant opportunity cost. The center of the party probably would be an Avenger or Chaladin with the Power of the Sun feat and/or the Morninglord PP (assuming it’s long overdue date with the nerfbat still has not arrived). The best combination probably is the Chaladin and a melee Ranger, which in turn tends to steer the leader to become a Warlord, because he needs to be able to perform both Rule 5 buffing functions on demand. (If the Chaladin hasn’t recently hit, granting him an extra MBA takes priority. If he has, buffing the Ranger becomes Job 1.)

    A fourth, similar concept is the proning party, in which some members specialize in knocking down Team Monster and some specialize in doing extra damage to prone targets.

    Keyword themes are a specialized approach to alpha-striking, trading some considerable straitjacketing of character designs for improved DPR. This decision goes hand in hand with that in Rule 1. If the DM isn’t fond of keyword-themed parties, it’s probably best to avoid the concept altogether.


    RULE 3: Select Striker. There Shall Only Be One, But Which One?
    Spoiler:

    An optimized party really does not need more than one striker per five members. Why? Because once the first striker enters play, then every leader added to the party becomes a de facto striker with extra, really useful functionality. The leaders do need that one striker, essentially to act as the weapon that they wield, but multiple leaders can share a single weapon.
    This can be a difficult rule to enforce, because a lot of players really want to play a striker. Strikers get more spotlight time than any other role. But the only thing that a multiple-striker party can do better than a single-striker-backed-by-multiple-leaders party is alpha-strike. The multiple-leader party already can bring more than enough of this capacity to the table, so a striker-heavy party will tend to be much too much of a good thing. Meanwhile, it will sorely lack the extra endurance that a multiple leader party will possess.

    Once you’ve sorted everyone out and determined who will have the privilege of playing the lone striker, you have to determine which sort of striker that will be. Truly optimal strikers come in two flavors: multiattackers (Rangers and various overwrought Half Elf builds) and monstrous basic attacks (Avenger, Rogue, Slayer, Thief). The Barbarian isn’t quite optimal at either approach, but is unique in being quite good at both.

    Usually, the striker also must serve as the team scout. A truly optimized party has an optimized scout, built on Dexterity and Wisdom and possessing the Perception, Stealth, and Thievery skills. (The scout also needs Athletics, Acrobatics, or reliable means to emulate the functionality of those skills.) The bow Ranger, Scout, pursuit Avenger, and off-statted Thief all can fill this niche easily. The melee Ranger, Brutal Scoundrel, etc can come close enough in a pinch. While optimizing for DPR is top priority for the striker’s build, a modest investment in scouting functions is not just forgivable but advisable.


    RULE 4: Select Defender. Pair Them Like a Fine Wine
    Spoiler:

    An optimized party will have one defender per five members. Every defender has its staunch advocates (and with the possible exception of the Fighter, its devoted critics). Probably, the best defender is the defender that fits the striker best.
    For most melee strikers, the Fighter probably is best. He’s comfortable in flank and makes it very painful to swing at the striker. Rogues and parties with controllers and leaders who specialize in forced movement may prefer the Knight, here. Another notable exception is the pursuit Avenger, who has less need for CA and pairs best with a shielding Swordmage who runs away and forces the OoE victim to either chase him and trigger the Avenger’s damage buffs or swing futilely at the Avenger through the Swordmage’s aegis. The most tricky is the melee Ranger, who from paragon on prefers to be all by his lonesome next to the target with Prime Punisher/Called Shot triggered. A purpose-built Paladin with plenty of ranged encounter powers can fit in here, while a polearm-wielding Fighter will do the job best.

    Ranged strikers often fit best with a different style of defender. Battleminds work well here, because they don’t necessarily need to mark a target first to break up its attack. A good Warden build can work even better, by indefinitely tying up multiple targets for as long as the bowman needs to do his job.

    If the striker just isn’t a good fit as scout, then it’s worth considering a defender build that can fill the role. A Strength-Wisdom Fighter with enough Dexterity to qualify for Armor Specialization (Scale) also can fill in as a decent scout, lacking top-notch sneakiness but making up for it with excellent mobility via Athletics. (Keep in mind that, for this purpose, a character with superb Perception and modest Stealth generally is just as sneaky as a character with superb Stealth and modest Perception. If you can locate the enemy in difficult circumstances then they must locate you under the same penalties.) The main problem is that defenders don’t tend to have the proper class skills. The DM will need to allow a good skill-swapping background, or a multiclass feat will need to be invested, probably both.


    RULE 5: Select Leader. The Right Swordarm for the Right Sword
    Spoiler:

    Just like the defender, the leader should be matched to the striker. Optimal leaders generally do one of three things: buff a striker’s existing attack, grant him an extra basic attack, or heal fantastically. Rangers are mostly interested in buffs---they bring their own extra attacks to the party just fine---while all other strikers usually will get more benefit from extra attacks. (Except the Barbarian, who will gladly exploit anything that a leader gives him.) The Artificer has quality buffs, with the caveat that they are missing at some levels so a hybrid Artificer often outperforms a pure build. The Shaman, Ardent, and to a much lesser extent the Bard, can grant extra attacks. The Warlord does both well.
    Healing is the Cleric’s forte. The Cleric doesn’t help a striker do his job all that much, but he does help the striker stay upright and do the job longer. If your party design already leans toward more nova potential than your DM may prefer, it may be prudent to slot in a Cleric rather than a more offensively minded leader. In particular, a Pacifist Cleric vastly increases party durability.

    A special consideration here is whether the DM is a strong believer in getting in multiple encounters per “workday.” The game is designed around four encounters per day, but if an early encounter goes south and the party wants to lick its wounds, many DMs will find that prudent and just move along. Others will penalize the party, or find means to compel the PCs to carry on. In the latter case, the Artificer gains a great deal of value, because he has the unique ability to trade healing surges among party members, which in turn improves endurance. To remain optimized, this party should feature a Ranger or Barbarian, and in turn a defender suited to supporting that striker.

    If the party still needs a scout, this probably isn’t the place to look. Leaders generally lack the attributes and the skills. A Shaman could use a background and a multiclass feat to gather the skills, then use Speak with Spirits to pump his rolls, but it wouldn’t be reliable.


    RULE 6: Select Controller. Is Zero a High Enough Number?
    Spoiler:

    Controllers are generally regarded as the most expendable role. Determining whether your party needs one can be an important decision.
    Obviously, the number of opponents in an encounter slides from bucketsful (minions) to roughly 1:1 (standard monsters) to just one (an antisocial solo). There’s many intermediate encounters (minions with 1 or 2 standard monsters, a solo with a bit of support), but they still fit within this scale. Both monster lethality and vulnerability tend to be highest at each end of the scale. Minions can "machine-gun" a single character through sheer numbers but fall rapidly to area attacks. Solos are fairly lethal and have debuffs that lock down one or more PCs, while they themselves can be very vulnerable to lockdown tactics.

    As party size increases, minions become more dangerous and solos less so; this is because each individual party member becomes a smaller and smaller portion of the party’s overall capacity to endure damage. For instance, let’s say a level-appropriate minion encounter can reasonably reduce party HP by 15% in a surprise round, and a level-appropriate solo can reasonably stun-lock one character. For a party of three, a character death doesn’t occur until the 33% threshold, so the minions have no chance but the solo can reduce party offense by 33% with a single roll. In a party of seven, character death occurs at roughly 14% of party HP lost, so the minions have killed a character but the solo is still facing 86% of the party.

    It can be a little counterintuitive, but this means that larger parties need more and more area and multiple attacks; ruthlessly dealing with minions becomes a higher priority, not a lesser one. A party of four or fewer probably should not have a controller, though the other members will need area or multiple attacks to cover the minion-clearing function. A party of five probably should have one, and a second controller probably should be added if party size ever reaches eight.

    In a keyword-themed party, it’s probably best to pick the class with the best array of powers sporting the proper keyword (generally, Wizards/Mages for cold, Invokers for radiant, and Psions for psychic). In a non-themed party, an orb Wizard or Mage probably will be best; if the DM plans on using rituals pick the former, otherwise the latter.

    Still seeking a scout? The Hunter is a repurposed striker and excellent at that job. The Druid also is well worth considering. The latter will still need to jump through hoops to pick up Stealth and Thievery, but Wildshape is very handy for a scout. This is a particularly good choice for a party of four whose other members lack any area or multiple attack capacity, because the Druid isn’t a premium controller but can hang in melee better than most. (This also has a very nice real-life knock-on effect. One flaw in the game’s design is that strikers get the most attention in combat, while scouts get the most attention out of it. The same player doesn’t need all that love. Giving the controller’s player a little spotlight time between encounters is only a good thing.)


    RULE 7: Select the Fourth or Fifth Wheel. Filling in the Skill Gaps
    Spoiler:

    So far we’ve added a striker, defender, and leader to a party of three or fewer. For most parties, a controller would be the fifth member. That leaves one slot open for the fourth member of a four- or five-PC party.
    Generally speaking, a second leader will add the most in this slot. Again, with a good striker in front of him a good leader does as much (or more) damage as a striker while adding healing and durability to the party.

    At this point, however, it’s also prudent to begin thinking in terms of skill selection. Obviously, we’ve been trying to find a party scout for most of this process. Ideally, this character will cover the three Dexterity skills (Acrobatics, Stealth, Thievery) and at least one Wisdom skill (Perception), preferably more. Between the leaders and controllers, most parties already will have a high Intelligence character who should take all of Arcana, History, and Religion. The defender usually covers Athletics, and often Endurance. So, most parties at this point will need either a high-Charisma party “face” (invested in Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate, and Streetwise) or a backup high-Wisdom character (to pick up any of Dungeoneering, Heal, Insight, or Nature that the scout lacks). If your party still needs both roles, then you probably ought to go back and rejigger your lineup. Again, we’re optimizing for a campaign experience, which goes well beyond just winning fights. We need to field the right man for the right skill challenge when that time comes.

    Fortunately, a leader can fill either role easily, it’s just a matter of picking the right leader. A Bard makes an excellent party face, though the Ardent or BravuraLord are stiff competition for the role. For parties needing another Wisdom-based build, a Cleric would be a natural choice assuming that wasn’t the first pick, with Artificers and Shamans giving them a run for their money.

    Note that each character in the party is expected to pick up every skill for his primary (and possibly secondary) attribute, with the exception of the two Wisdom-based characters who split the five Wisdom-based skills among them. This will tend to steer skill-optimized parties toward a Dex-Wis scout, one more Wisdom-based character, a single Charisma-based build, and a single Intelligence-based build. Often, a stumbling block for five-member parties is wanting to have two or more Intelligence-based builds (the controller and at least one leader). This tends to leave either Wisdom or Charisma skills uncovered by the party as a whole.

    Those builds that have skill slots left over after covering their responsibilities should invest in the obvious choices: Perception, then Heal. In a campaign with strict item rarity and grittily realistic medieval terrain, Athletics should join this elite group.

    Stealth is a special case. Every party needs a single scout, because knowledge is nearly as important as mad skillz when it comes to consistently winning fights, but most parties don’t need anyone else with the skill. That said, it would be perfectly valid to build a party around a “SEAL team” concept in the right campaign. If everyone can find a way to purchase both Stealth and a modest Dexterity, then a lot of fun tactics will open up for the group. In practice, this will be pretty hard to implement. There aren’t that many leader builds that can even pretend to be a Ninja Lite.


    RULE 8: Melee or Range. Be Able to Fight Wrong-handed
    Spoiler:

    At this point you’ve essentially completed the first draft of the party. It’s time to proofread, and the first thing to look for is overreliance on melee or (much less commonly) ranged attacks. If no one in the party can attack an enemy 6 squares away, it’s time to start over, and ideally everyone in the party can contribute at least some form of attack up to 10 squares away. (All hail the mighty javelin.) Optimizing melee DPR is tempting, even addictive, but an alternate party that can bring 85% of the melee heat and 300% of the ranged heat will have a longer career.
    Conversely, a party of ranged specialists better have someone who can stand tall in the thick of melee. Generally this isn’t an issue for any party with a defender. But it’s even better if the ranged characters have some sort of option for helping the meat shield clear a 25-by-25-foot gatehouse full of goblins. Sentinels who specialize in summoning and Shamans add a great deal of value to ranged parties, because their companions and summons can serve as shield walls.


    RULE 9: Add a Third P. Select Party-benefiting Paragon Paths
    Spoiler:

    A lot of builds will be centered around a particular paragon path, and that’s fine, but from the party optimization perspective the best paragon paths are those that benefit the party as a whole. Five PCs each benefiting from five powerful knock-on effects at level 16 are way ahead of five PCs each with a single slightly more powerful effect. Some of the best of the best include:

    Battle Captain: The gold standard for buff-at-will optimization.

    Battlefield Archer: If Battlefield Expertise applies to the whole party, this just adds win to win.

    Divine Oracle: This still adds a huge party benefit (no surprise), even if it was a lot sexier on a Wizard before the Cleric=>Templar nerfs.

    Flame of Hope: Adds strong leader buffs to a controller.

    Guildmaster Thief: Two huge effects. AP redistribution is extremely powerful.

    Hospitaler: De facto makes the entire party much tougher.

    Moonstalker: Does for proning parties what Morninglord does for Radiant Mafias.

    Morninglord: The straw that stirs the Radiant Mafia drink into a cheesy froth. May be considered setting and religion specific.

    War Chanter:
    Listening to “Carmina Burana Carl Orff-O Fortuna” over and over again is a small price to pay.


    RULE 10: Tweak and Adjust. Cover All of the Bases
    Spoiler:

    So what have we missed? The original version of this post described 30 party functions, broken into three tiers of 10 each. They were sorely outdated, so let’s revise then review them to see if any are particularly lacking:
    TIER A

    1. Nova/alpha-strikes [situational (see Rule 1), reduces need for healing, tends to synergy with multiple attacks or big basic attacks]

    2. Marking/defender aura [more than one is good, inverse relationship to nova capacity]

    3. Healer [more than one is good, decreases in importance as nova capacity increases]

    4. Multitarget and/or AoE attacks [at least one is extremely handy to “acid test” for minions, larger parties need more and benefit more, to the extent that really large parties may be best optimized with nothing but AoE specialists]

    5. Extra attacks and moves [less important for mobile ranged parties, big basic attacks add value]

    6. Debuffs [more important for ranged parties, terrain-making can be a substitute]

    7. Buffs

    8. Ranged attacks [gain in importance with party size]

    9. NAD attacks (particularly vs Reflex and Will)

    10. SoloLock [nerfed heavily, but an orb Wizard remains handy, larger parties can round-robin this function with stunning attacks]

    TIER B

    1. Trapmaster [Thievery, ideally integrated with Sneak for a perfect scout, varies by DM fondness for traps]

    2. Sneak [Stealth, ideally Perception and Thievery too]

    3. Terrain-making [zones, etc, more useful in forced movement—heavy party]

    4. Big basic attacks [adds value to extra attacks]

    5. Single-target multiattacks [adds value to keyword themes]

    6. Hawkeye [Perception, useful among all PCs]

    7. Face [Diplomacy, ideally all 4 Charisma skills barring C5 being filled]

    8. Synergys [spare resources dedicated to partywide benefits]

    9. Uniques [detect chaotic evil, tiny shapeshift, etc]

    10. Ritual caster [depends on DM, needs high Intelligence and ideally Wisdom]

    TIER C

    1. Wall (tanking defender) [great in dungeons fronting ranged parties]

    2. Companions (animal, spirit, etc) [great for smaller and/or ranged parties]

    3. Lay healers [useful among all PCs, especially thanks to skill powers]

    4. Athletics expert [varies dramatically with magic item rarity]

    5. Intimidate expert [not necessarily the party face in this case, given there are Str-based builds]

    6. Dungeoneering expert

    7. Acrobat expert

    8. Sprinter [generally more useful as partywide emphasis]

    9. Endurance expert

    10. History expert

    See anything there you missed? Time to go back and refine your party dynamics. At this point, of course, you’ll have to rob Peter to pay Paul, so don’t expect to be able to do everything with any given standard-size party. However, a well-designed five-PC party can bring a respectable (if not outlandish) nova and fill 25+ of these functions without breaking a sweat.

    Comments welcome, as always.

  7. #7
    Originally posted by Rancid_Rogue:

    ARCHIVED FOURTH REVISION

    This post has gone through three major revisions. Here is the fourth (and probably final, barring small improvements) draft, which approaches the topic from a new angle based on thought prompted by the feedback in this thread. It also changes a few terms to conform (where applicable) with the Party Building article in Dragon 373.

    The third draft is archived deep in the thread; I didn't think to archive the first two, but then they weren’t much. A few of the following comments won't make sense in light of the original post having been completely different.

    ***

    RULE 1: Define Party Functions
    Spoiler:

    Before you can define the most optimized party, you have to define what it is that your party ideally can do. Following are 30 party functions ranked in three tiers by (arguable) order of importance.

    LEGEND
    The assumption is that only one party member needs to be able to perform a given function. An (s) following the function name means that having more than one of these is ideal. An (1/all) following the function name means that you really only need one party member to have the ability, or every party member should have it. A single asterisk (*) means that the function is situational; its importance will rise or fall depending on DM and campaign style, and certain facets may be controversial and house-ruled. A double asterisk (**) means the function is highly situational, and you need to think very carefully about how far you want to exploit it based on DM/campaign dynamics.

    Comments in brackets [] explain how the function interrelates with other party functions or characteristics. An arrow (^v) before the related topic means that importance rises or declines as the party increases its ability in the related topic; eg, Healing [vA3] means that the need for healing declines as a party increases its nova capacity, because a team of elite novas doesn’t expect combat to last long. An arrow (^v) after the related topic means that the related topic’s importance rises or declines as the party increases this ability; eg, Many Targets [A9v] means that the utility of MultiAttacks declines as the party’s AoE capacity increases. An exclamation point (!) indicates synergy with the related topic; eg, Black Hole [!A1] means that marking has synergy with itself, in that having two defenders often can be more than twice as good as having one.

    In addition, four functions have upgrades that both wholly replace and substantially alter the nature of that function.

    TIER A
    1. Black Hole(s) (markers) [!A1, ^A7]
    2. Healer(s) [vA3]
    3. Nova(s)** (very high damage dailies) [A2v, !B3]
    4. Many Targets(s) (AoEs) [^larger party]
    5. SoloLock* (single-target control) [vA3, vlarger party]
    6. Debuff(s) [^A7, vB2]
    7. Artillery(s) (ranged builds) [^larger party]
    8. Booster(s) (buffs)
    9. NAD attack(s) (vs. Will, Fort, Ref)
    10. Tactician(s) (extra attacks and moves) [^A7 (escape moves), B4^]

    COMMENTS: Nova is highly situational because, taken to excess, it can be irritating to DMs, and keeping the DM happy has as much to do with party success as anything on this list. (We're real-world optimizing, here.) If the DM slaves over his plotlines and encounters, then you expect to snicker-snack through everything by spamming Blade Cascade like a bunch of unruly teens devouring a gourmet meal, well, you're begging for payback. SoloLock is situational because the most common method (orb wizardry) will often be house-ruled.

    TIER B
    1. Trapmaster* (high Thievery)
    2. Terrain Maker [vA6]
    3. MultiAttacks* [!A3, vA4]
    4. BigMak (big basic melee attack) [^A10]
    5. Hawkeye (high Perception; upgrades to Skeptic)
    6. Sneak(1/all)** (high Stealth; upgrades to Scout)
    7. Synergy(s)* (partywide benefits; eg, frost feats, Morninglord, etc)
    8. Base face (high Diplomacy; upgrades to Ace face)
    9. Unique(s) (detect chaotic evil, tiny shapeshift, etc)
    10. Int ritual caster* (Arcana and Religion)

    COMMENTS: Trapmaster depends on whether the DM ever bothers with traps, and how often. Some MultiAttacks (Dual Strike, Rain of Blows, etc) are considered broken by some and may be house-ruled. Sneak(all) is highly situational; if the DM is eager to run a "high fantasy SEAL team" kind of game, and will count avoided encounters as beaten encounters, it's well worth the effort to design the party. Just about every Synergy power has been dubbed broken at some time; some options may not be available in your campaign. Given the amount of tinkering that probably goes on with the economic system, any sort of routine ritual use should be discussed with the DM; half-price magic items would make this high priority of course.

    TIER C
    1. Wall (tanking defender) [^A7, vlarge maps]
    2. Companion (animal or spirit) [^A7, vlarge party]
    3. Lay healer* (skill-based, upgrades to Wis ritual caster)
    4. Athletics expert(1/all)*
    5. Intimidate expert(s)**
    6. Dungeoneering expert*
    7. Acrobat expert
    8. Sprinter(1/all)**
    9. Endurance expert(1/all)*
    10. History expert*

    COMMENTS: Just about everything in Tier 3 depends on campaign specifics. Lay healing will depend on how many powered healers are in the group. Some DMs routinely will want every party member to be able to pass a Jump/Swim/Climb check one way or another; some will never pose that kind of Athletics challenge. If the Intimidate rules are used by RAW, every good candidate should take the skill; if one of the frequent nerfs is in place it's possibly not worth it for anyone to invest in it. Fielding a party full of Sprinters is difficult, but if you're not afraid to run and fight another day it can be a lifesaver (a rare case where the players’ outlooks are the variable rather than the DM’s outlook). Endurance and History both rarely come up, but there’s always that DM who goes out of his way to challenge the rare skills ...

    UPGRADED FUNCTIONS
    BB5: Skeptic* (Perception and Insight; replaces Hawkeye)
    BB6: Scout** (Stealth, Perception, speed; replaces Sneak)
    BB8: Ace face* (Diplomacy, Bluff, Streetwise; replaces Base face)
    CC3: Wis ritual caster** (Heal, Nature, Ritual Caster; replaces Lay healer)

    COMMENTS: A Skeptic is an easy upgrade from the nigh essential Hawkeye, and worth it in a highly social campaign. (He basically stands at the face's elbow and nudges him every time his BS-meter beeps.) In that same sort of campaign, the Face needs to upgrade to Ace Face. In a campaign where the DM enjoys and rewards player initiative, a true Scout can be a huge monster mystery debuffer, but admittedly a lot of DMs will railroad the Scout into futility. A Wisdom ritual caster also depends on the DM's outlook on rituals; often it's simpler to hire an NPC when this rare need presents itself.


     

    ***

    RULE 2: High Nova or Low Nova?
    Spoiler:

    What is or isn't nova can differ in the (central) eye of the beholder, but generally a nova character build spends most of its resources to build up a single extraordinarily lethal power or combination of powers, then recharge that "super attack" if possible.

    A certain amount of this sort of thing is not only inherent to the game, but largely the point of the game. Using complementary powers and action points to overcome the session's climactic threat is good tactics and good gaming. No reasonable DM should complain about that, and thus the default here is "low nova" rather than "no nova."

    "High nova" takes things past the point that the game design probably intended. Building a Strength-based Avenger is high nova. A group of players who expect that each character will get their hands on every single daily-recharge magic item as soon as it's available is definitely thinking in high nova terms, too. A lot of other builds are judgment calls. It's important to remember that the DM's judgment is what counts here.

    The point of a high nova party is that it's more efficient than a low nova party; the PCs kill the enemy too quickly to need much healing or control. Conversely, many high nova parties require DM complacency (a fact that the players tend to overlook). For instance, they often take advantage of rules that could be reasonably called broken; they often depend on being able to obtain a custom kit of magic items with little difficulty; or they often have holes in their defenses and Tier B and C functions that they expect the DM to forego exploiting.

    High nova parties are best played in one-off sessions or convention scenarios (especially if these begin at later levels with player-purchased beginning gear) or in a campaign with a laissez faire DM. In a home campaign with significant DM investment, it may be rude and/or unwise to field a high nova party. It's best to discuss with the DM beforehand what he considers to be simply good tactics versus what he considers to be exploitative.


     

    ***

    RULE 3: Determine the Number of Party Members
    Spoiler:

    Usually, you’ll already know how many characters will be in play, because it’s usually one per player. (This doesn’t have to be the case. Some or all players can run two characters, or the DM can run an NPC. But it is generally the most comfortable arrangement.)

    A small (3 member) party will have to pare its list of crucial functions ruthlessly. Any inconvenient Tier C functions should be discarded barring campaign requirements. The players will need to cherry-pick which Tier B functions they can plan to support.

    A standard (4 or 5 member) party should manage every Tier A and B function that hasn’t been discarded because of campaign specifics. A few campaign-specific Tier C functions should be doable as well.

    A larger party should reasonably expect to address every tier of functionality without sacrificing its linear (or better) growth in the Tier A essentials.

    The core of any party tends to be defender, leader, controller. (Surprised? See Rules 4 and 5.) Beyond that, high nova parties should add striker, striker, striker, leader, controller in about that order. Low nova parties should add striker, leader, defender, striker, controller in about that order.

    A reasonable alternative build from character four on is leader, leader, leader, leader, leader. This can be a relatively subtle way of combining low nova durability with nearly high nova lethality (ie, a DM who wouldn't approve of other high-nova approaches may not think that this is exploitative at all). The main drawback is that it’s hard to properly fill all functions from the leader class alone.


    ***

    RULE 4: Know How Party Size Influences Combat
    Spoiler:

    Obviously, the number of opponents in an encounter slides from minions (many) to standard foes (roughly 1:1 with the party) to solos (only 1). There’s intermediate encounters (minions with 1 or 2 standard monsters, a solo with a bit of support), but generally the monster scale is minions--standard--solo.

    Both monster lethality and vulnerability tend to be highest at each end of the scale. Minions can "machine-gun" a single character through sheer numbers but fall rapidly to area attacks. Solos are fairly lethal and have debuffs that lock down one or more PCs, while they themselves are very vulnerable to stun-lock.

    As party size increases, minions become more dangerous and solos less so; this is because each individual party member becomes a smaller and smaller portion of the party’s overall capacity to endure damage. For instance, let’s say a level-appropriate minion encounter can reasonably reduce party HP by 15% in a surprise round, and a level-appropriate solo can reasonably stun-lock one character. For a party of three, a character death doesn’t occur until the 33% threshold, so the minions have no chance but the solo can reduce party offense by 33% with a single roll. In a party of seven, character death occurs at roughly 14% of party HP lost, so the minions have killed a character but the solo is still facing 86% of the party.

    It can be a little counterintuitive, but this means that larger parties need more and more area and multiple attacks; ruthlessly dealing with minions becomes a higher priority, not a lesser one. This is why a second controller is recommended as the eighth party member in both builds in Rule 3, even though it’s commonly thought that you only ever need one controller. An optimized party should only skip the second controller if it’s fielding several other characters with area effect potential (Dragonborn, swordmages, etc).

    Conversely …


     

     

     

     

    ***

    RULE 5: Determine Who Will Be the Solo-Lock
    Spoiler:

    A Solo-Lock is a character who from paragon on can reliably lock down a single opponent encounter after encounter. Even though they are most hamstrung by the need to field one, small parties need a solo-lock far more than large ones. Partly this is because solos tend to be debuffers themselves, and losing one member to a stun-lock is far more hurtful to a party of three than a party of six (as explained in Rule 4).

    SoloLock is not nearly as simple as it used to be. Back in the day, when the boss monster reared its ugly 500-HP head, the orb wizard would elbow his way up to the front of the party and growl, “Stand back, boys. I got this.” Orb wizards can’t hold their locks that long anymore, and good solos have tricks for avoiding stunlock anyway.
     

     

    Also, in lieu of a dedicated Solo-Lock, an optimized large party might be better off turning this into a group function. Most classes have one or two daily powers that inflict stun until the end of next turn; by selecting these powers then taking turns using them, the party inflicts a round-robin of stun on the solo while killing it. This takes some pretty good coordination, but it also means that the party’s Solo-Lock functionality isn’t vulnerable to losing a single member.

    For small parties, group Solo-Lock isn’t a valid option. Instead, they need to field either an orb wizard or the paladin PP Champion of Order (which works at least as well with fighters and is an interesting graft onto other classes). The orb wizard is the usual choice; at lower levels he can broom away minions with trivial ease (though admittedly this isn’t a huge priority for small parties). On the other hand, CoO also offers a Unique power (detect chaotic evil) that is great in a highly social campaign.

    Of course, other varieties of SoloLock can be designed (orb wizard and CoO are simply the most straightforward), and in a very high nova party just about any stun effect until the end of the next turn might be sufficient to the task.


    ***

    RULE 6: Find Complementary Builds
    Spoiler:

    Ideally, any optimized party will include characters whose functions relate well. For instance, a Dwarven BattleRager with his hammer o' doom wants a leader who grants extra attacks (such as a cunning bard) rather than a first-rate healer, whereas a relatively fragile Tempest fighter probably would opt the other way around. The function-defining in Rule 1 is a first step toward mapping out these sorts of relationships.

    In addition, an optimal party will include at least one character maximizing each of the six attributes (for skill maxing) and there will not be a preponderance of members sharing the same poor NAD (for instance, it’s easy to field a party in which only the defender has a respectable Fortitude score).

    Finally, it's important at this step to ensure that your party is at least low nova rather than no nova. If your characters can't put together some pretty powerful effects to start an encounter---maybe just once daily, but at least that often---it's probably a good idea to rethink your class mix.

    Usually one or more players will have some strong preconceptions about what they want to play. As long as a single character build is fairly optimized, an optimized party can be built around it. Once two or three players bring to the table builds that don't really work together, then some level of optimization will just have to be lost.

    Forging these relationships can be hard enough in a large party and extremely challenging in a small one. There are a few very solid trinities to be found: You may want to consider Half-Orc tempest fighter, Half-Elf valorous bard, and Deva orb wizard; alternately, Githyanki defending swordmage, Dragonborn charisma warlord, and Elven druid.


    ***

    RULE 7: Test for Over-reliance
    Spoiler:

    Imagine everyone but character 1 fighting together, then everyone but character 2, etc. Does removing one character greatly reduce offense or survivability? This might often be the case in a single-leader party, particularly one without a paladin or other reliable backup healer. Sometimes it’s best to plan for something to go wrong, rather than to build a party that performs spectacularly but only when everything goes its way.


    ***

    RULE 8: Plan for the Optimal Basket of Paragon Paths
    Spoiler:

    Some characters will need to take a particular paragon path to fill their role (eg, Champion of Order for the party Solo-Lock, or Pit Fighter for the party’s sole striker). Any character build that doesn’t have this need should take a strong look at a paragon path that benefits the party as a whole. A few examples include:

    Divine Oracle: Huge party and self buffs. Should be fitted to a character with multiple vs Will attacks.

    Flame of Hope: Adds strong leader buffs to a controller.

    Hospitaler: De facto makes the entire party much tougher.

    Morninglord: Huge Synergy with radiant weapons. Limits party ethics.

    These are PPs that impact everyone on the team. Fielding as many of them as possible will improve optimization.


    ***

    RULE 9: Retest for Over-reliance at Paragon
    Spoiler:

    By level 16, characters have changed dramatically. Reperform the Rule 7 tests, envisioning the party at this level. If anything, paragon and epic parties are more likely to lose one or two members in a single swoop than heroic ones, so it’s essential to have some redundancy and backup options for Tier A functions by this point.


    ***

    RULE 10: Plan for Epic: But Not Too Much
    Spoiler:

    Have at least a rough idea for epic progression, but not much more than that. The campaign may not last that long, and if it does umpteen new epic opportunities will have been published in the interim.

  8. #8

    Party Composition: Which Roles When? (by Rancid_Rogue)

    Originally posted by Rancid_Rogue:

    While updating my party optimization guide(x), I realized that I had distilled a great deal of debate on party selection, drawn conclusions, and just built the latest guide without going into any detail. So, here's one somewhat informed opinion on who should be slotted into a party when:

    Party Member One: Single-target Striker
    Someone who can bring tons of pain to a single target via either multiple attacks or awesome basic attacks should always be the first party member. Top Choices: Ranger, Thief, Slayer, Brutal Scoundrel, Avenger.

    Even if the party is only one, a striker is still the choice, though single-target focus is a bit less important and the method becomes irrelevant. In a solo campaign, defending has marginal utility (it can keep ranged opponents from shifting without pain, mostly). Control is even less useful, because you'll rarely be juggling that many numbers in a level-appropriate encounter. So, a single-target death dealer is the ideal approach, though as a solo giving up a little DPR for some durability would be very prudent. This is a good spot for a hybrid build. Top Choices: Githzerai Monk/Wilder, Ranger|Cleric, Ranger|Runepriest, infernal Warlock.

    Party Member Two: Defender, With an Asterisk
    Once the party becomes a true party, the DM can field enough minions to run strafing runs on single PCs. Someone who can break up Team Monster's focus and endure their attention becomes very important. Top Choices: depends on the striker, per rule 4 of the optimization guide.

    Of course, if the party has only two members, some healing would be lovely. You'll need either a solo-style striker in slot 1 or a Paladin as the defender. Or perhaps a solo-style striker in slot 1 and a Fighter with all of his self-healing tricks in slot 2.

    Party Member Three: Leader
    If the striker is a multiattacker, stock up on accuracy and damage buffs that apply to every swing that he makes. Leverage what you do. If the striker has an awesome MBA or RBA, stock up on powers that let him use it again on your turn. Be the striker, while still rocking your own tricks. Top Choices: Warlord.

    Party Member Four: Leader 2
    You know what's more awesome than a Thief who does a kazillion-hit sneak attack twice per round? That's right, a Thief who does it three times a round. You've been peaking ahead, haven't you? Top Choices: War ... well, OK, we've done that. For extra basic attacks, the Shaman is top tier while the Ardent brings extra attacks or a slew of other useful riders (extra saving throws!). For parties built around a multiattacker, the Artificer both buffs and can spread healing surges. In practice, this means that he himself gets to donate to the Keep the Ranger on His Feet fund, quite often ...

    Party Member Five: Controller
    Yea, the DM can paradrop a kazillion minions on your heads by this point. Yea, you need one now. Top Choices: You'll never go wrong with an orb Wizard if the DM bothers with rituals, or a Mage if he doesn't.

    Party Member Six: Striker 2
    The party's leaders already have their walking, talking weapon in striker 1, so this guy probably should be a multiple-target specialist, who softens up opponents while they wait for striker 1's attention and simultaneously ensures that the specialists don't waste their talents on minions. Top Choices: Monk, Sorcerer.

    Party Member Seven: Defender 2
    If a Battlemind wasn't your first choice, then he makes an excellent second defender. Being able to divert attacks without previously marking the attacker is a real nice ability when the battles get this large and fluid. If you already have a Battlemind, and you're optimizing party build, then you probably have a ranged-heavy party. In that case, one of those Wardens who grabs everyone and immobilizes them in a zone around him will add huge value.

    Party Member Eight: Controller 2
    Forget the kazillion minions dropping on your heads. It's the kazillion other minions popping out of hidey holes and screaming "Wolverines!" that really should alarm you. Top Choices: Eh, grab an Invoker and scream "Iahveh rocks!" right back at them.

    Party Member Nine: Leader 3
    Four sneak attacks per round? Be still, my beating munchkin heart. Top Choices: It wouldn't be completely shameful to go to another flavor of Warlord, here.

    Party Member Ten+: Uh What The?
    Move half the party to Los Angeles and start a XXXXers West chapter, for Pete's sake.

  9. #9

    Miscellaneous Role Chatter

    Spoiler:

    Originally posted by lordduskblade:

    You're talking giant basic attacks, yet the Slayer and Barbarian aren't mentioned (especially the former)? What's up with that? I know that Sneak Attack is cute and all, but you still have to get combat advantage to get it, and we're talking Rapier vs. Gouge as far as [W] is concerned, here.

    I also have to say I disagree with your order somewhat. For me, this is how it goes:

    1. Striker - Bring the pain. Ranger, Barbarian, Avenger, Rogue, Slayer, et al.
    2. Leader - Feed the party. Warlord, Ardent, Bard, Cleric, Shaman, Runepriest, et al.
    3. Defender - Keep the other guys upright. Fighter, Battlemind, Warden, Paladin, Swordmage, et al.
    4. Controller - Mess with people. Wizard, Invoker, Psion, Druid, et al.
    5. 2nd Striker - Tag-team pain. The previous list, plus Monk, Sorcerer if you want to soften multiple oponents up simultaneously.
    6. 2nd Leader
    7. 2nd Defender
    8. 2nd Controller
    9. 3rd Striker (NOT an AoE guy - a single target guy)

    That said, you can probably talk me into switching 5 and 6. That one can be a judgment call.

    Originally posted by akschmid:

    8. 2nd Controller
    9. 3rd Striker (NOT an AoE guy - a single target guy)
    I love controllers but I'd generally take a third striker over a second controller, especially since almost all other characters bring some control to the table. However, this changes depending on the type of controller. Single target controllers like Enchanters and some Psions double up a lot better than area controllers like most wizards and invokers.

    Originally posted by Mengu74:

    1-man party: I think anything can work here, defender (fighter, paladin, etc), striker (barbarian, ranger, etc), maybe leader (Runepriest), maybe even a controller (druid) could duke it out well enough.

    2-man party: Leader + anything. Striker probably works best but Defender will also work just fine.

    3-man party: Three easy to remember letters, LSD.

    4-man party: LSD + striker or controller

    5-man party: As long as there is LSD+S/C, the rest doesn't matter.

    I also think role composition is not gospel. You can fake roles pretty well these days. I think the most important key to optimization is how well do you synergize with your leader and if you have one, your controller, and how flexible/balanced you are with melee vs ranged.

    I'd almost always start a party with, "Who wants to play the leader"? Next question "What do you want to play?" Once we have that answer, then we can begin the work.

    And if you have three or more players, "Who is playing the ranger?" is a good question to ask.

    Originally posted by lordduskblade:


    *good stuff*

    3-man party: Three easy to remember letters, LSD.

    *more good stuff*

    And if you have three or more players, "Who is playing the ranger?" is a good question to ask.
    You see this, right here? Mengu74 won this thread on these two alone.


    Originally posted by thecasualoblivion:

    I tend to go more general:

    1. Strong single target Striker--focus fire is the best way, and one of these is the core of a focus fire strategy

    2. Healer--A healer of some sort is generally required to even out the randomness of enemy hits

    3. Defender--Prevents the enemy from focus firing you

    These three are mandatory. Outside of these, it becomes less clear cut. In no particular order:

    1. Controller--These are very strong, but not mandatory

    2. Blaster--Defined as a character who deals Striker-style damage to multiple enemies without focusing on a single target. These generally don't fulfill the Striker role well(they generally would rather hit three undamaged enemies than the focus fire target alone), but they are incredible at doing their own thing

    3. Duelist--Pursuit Avenger is the prime example here, and the main aim is to create a sticky character who can render one enemy ineffective just by being in its face. Its a niche role, but in essence can make a 5 vs 5 combat into 5 vs 4, and these guys are kryptonite to many enemies(Artillery and mobility dependant Skirmishers).

    4. Opportunist--Generally a combination of Controller and a strong sub-role, and examples would include Beast Druids and most Warlocks(Warlock debuffs tend to be best used to cripple strong enemies, as opposed to the focus fire target). These guys aren't as strong in the Controller role as a pure Controller, but often can take better advantage of a changing situation and are more effective than most controllers on the back end of combat.

    5. Second Striker--Damage is the one thing in 4E you can't have too much of.

    6. Second Defender--Two Defenders can work off each other and lock the entire fight down, with the caveat that if you have two Defenders at least one of them needs to hit really hard.

    7. Second Leader--I'm not a big fan of these, since they contribute to grind.

    Originally posted by jandor1:

    I think I'm more with LDB and thecasualol on this ... S+L+D+C

    Controllers are vital, I find. Being able to lock down Team Monster for even a round can really make a difference, allowing better positioning for Team Player; reliable soft control (attack or, more importantly, defense debuffs) increases party survivability/damage output considerably. Leaders bring this to the table with attack bonuses and the like (which is why they're listed first), but if you put the two together, and everyone is hitting all the time, your damage goes up that much faster and Team Monster goes down that much easier.

    Plus, control is SATISFYING. Denying the BBEG (or even regular monsters) major actions feels good and keeps the party going.

    Another thing to point out is that having everyone focus on dealing high damage is pretty important. I just played in a delve (the 8th level one) in which we ran 4 PCs through the standard encounters. I was running Killswitch and a version of the Most Annoying Halfling Rogue Ever, and my friend had a psychic damage focus psion and a sword/board fighter. The combination of control (in the form of debufffs rather than Hard control like dazing, stunning, immobilizing, etc), out of turn attacks (from Killswitch), minor action attacks (from rogue), and solid defense from the fighter allowed us to survive each encounter without anyone dropping.

    With that being said, your 5th slot is best filled by a striker. They have mobility and defense tricks a lot of leaders don't have, they deal better damage than controllers, they don't interfere with Defender 1 by also defending (which incidentally makes it harder to focus fire), and they bring, well, more damage to the table. The best CHOICE of striker is party dependent. Have one of LDBs barbarians in the front line? Play a ranged ranger or a warlock (maybe a sorcerer). Need some more front line action? Avenger, Rogue, Ranger, Barbarian ... most strikers, frankly, all good choices.

    Ultimately, well balanced is important, and one OTHER thing to keep in mind is skill synergy. Rogues may have one of the most swingy extra damage features, but they also get 6 skills.

    Anyway.

    -J

    Originally posted by Rancid_Rogue:

    @LDB:
    Just plain forgot the Slayer. No argument there. And if I'm on the fence about anything, it's whether a leader or defender is the better partner in a two-person crew. At heroic, I think a defender adds more value in mitigating damage (which is considerably more valuable than repairing it, over the course of an entire workday). At epic, a leader probably adds more value in buffing the alpha strike and repairing damage when things unravel. Somewhere in paragon their relative worth probably flips.

    I very much think that in most parties slot 4 belongs to a second leader, who can bring the striker's DPR and enhance party durability at the same time. But yes, by this point the party is large enough that minion strafing runs can become a real concern, though for instance a Ranger, dual-wielding Fighter, and Ardent have little to worry about. Slot 4 is a tipping point depending on the mix of builds, and by slot 5 the controller needs to be in play.

    And I'm just not as sold on the value of a second striker, unless the first one is in the habit of getting himself killed. Given the right leader-striker pairings on the board, of course.

    @akschmid:
    I don't have much experience with parties that large myself, but I certainly can see the theoretical prudence of bumping up the entry of the second controller. At 8+ members, a given PC becomes a trivial percentage of the party's overall damage-enduring capacity. A Team Monster that reasonably drains 15% of party HPs before going down is a modest threat with 4 in the group; it becomes an almost sure PC death vs a party of 8. The baseline damage for a level-appropriate encounter is way higher than 15%, by the way.

    We like to advise everyone to take Improved Initiative, but really, these days how many non-controllers really find room in their builds? Especially if the party suffers a surprise round, any mediocre initiative showing could leave someone on the floor, and controllers are the role with the responsibility to be fast-draw experts and keep that from taking place.

    @Mengu74: Solo campaigns I do know, and while a defender can do OK, dumping damage on Team Monster in a hurry becomes even more important for solos, because they can't depend on a buddy to bail them out from status effects. Some level of healing is essential, too---Fighters and Paladins do sorta OK in that---but hybriding striker DPR to leader healing (or an alternate schtick such as spamming Steel Wind with the Wilder PP) works better in my experience. Pure leaders lack the DPR and will burn surges fiercely. Controllers? Just, no.


    Originally posted by Mengu74:

    @Mengu74: Solo campaigns I do know, and while a defender can do OK, dumping damage on Team Monster in a hurry becomes even more important for solos, because they can't depend on a buddy to bail them out from status effects. Some level of healing is essential, too---Fighters and Paladins do sorta OK in that---but hybriding striker DPR to leader healing (or an alternate schtick such as spamming Steel Wind with the Wilder PP) works better in my experience. Pure leaders lack the DPR and will burn surges fiercely. Controllers? Just, no.
    Even at level 1, if someone hits my Runepriest, he can deal 2d6+10, or heal up and nova for 40'ish damage with an action point, more if he uses a daily. DPR is not a problem. Defenders have plenty of DPR tools.

    Controllers have a bit more difficult time with DPR, but more importantly, they are awesome at dealing with minions which is important in a solo campaign. Is it the best choice? Probably not, but certainly manageable.

    Originally posted by Rancid_Rogue:

    Even at level 1, if someone hits my Runepriest, he can deal 2d6+10, or heal up and nova for 40'ish damage with an action point, more if he uses a daily. DPR is not a problem. Defenders have plenty of DPR tools.
    The wrathful Runepriest pretty much already is a hybrid striker-leader, so I don't know that it invalidates my point.

    That particular build has another problem. You're fielding AC 17, Fortitude 14, Reflex 11, Will 13, and the latter two keep on falling behind. Any solo concept with two poor NADs is basically whispering to the DM, "I know you can take me out whenever you feel like it, and you know you can take me out whenever you feel like it, but let's both just pretend, OK?"

    The wrathful Runepriest probably is the best of the single-NAD builds for solo play (the dwarven Battlerager also being a contender, of course), but even with Constitution as a primary the Runepriest will suck his surge tank dry in short order. 

    Controllers have a bit more difficult time with DPR, but more importantly, they are awesome at dealing with minions which is important in a solo campaign.
    That's a common fallacy but the truth is completely opposite. The DM can't field enough minions to scare a good solo build and stay within hailing distance of encounter guidelines. Solos would scare solos if they fell within guidelines, so as it is elites scare solos. Carving up padded sumos quickly is Job 1.

    Minions should worry the bejeezel out of oversized parties, especially those that think they need another Ranger because AoE sucks, as discussed above.


    Originally posted by seifalmasy:

    I think there's a flawed assumption in all this, and that's that the "optimal party" is going to proceed along WotC's roles.  There's an enormous difference between a warlord and a cleric in terms of where I'd rank them in this schema, and similarly with a warlock and a wizard.

    1) Ranger, Slayer, Barbarian, or Avenger.  These guys are consistently at the top of both burst damage and round-by-round damage piles, are likely impervious to errata in their single-class forms, and the non-rangers recieve granted attacks better than anyone else.  They can also hold a melee line for a couple rounds.

    2) Shaman or Warlord.  Provide a melee body, bust out the attack granter and party-wide nova ability.  Minimum healing is ok, but you'll need some saving throws.

    3) Defender, with a clear secondary role (doesn't matter which).

    *NOTE: None of "LSD" are purely ranged characters.

    4) Bard, White Mage, Warlock, Paladin.  What?  This slot, I fully believe, has nothing to do with "role" and everything to do with "Can you completely shut down a single target multiple times per encounter?"  We're concerned less with incapacitating solos here, who are getting better against such shenanigans according to the Red Dragon preview, but more controllers, elites, and whichever dangerous guy happens to be out of position at the right time.

    5) Fill holes, wrapping around your defender's secondary role and slot #4's primary role.  By this point you should have an off-tank and a second character who can hand out saving throws.  Within 5 characters, then, you have some measure of redundancy in each role-- two markers, a healer and a backup, at least 2.5 strikers (a striker, a leader who can hit things with his striker, and either a secondary role or a nova-enabler in the remaining three characters), and a solid melee-range balance.

    Originally posted by Rancid_Rogue:

    1) Ranger, Slayer, Barbarian, or Avenger.
    Obviously, I'd add the Thief and Brutal Scoundrel. I can't imagine the designers pulling an errata on the new Sneak Attack after dramatically empowering it in the first place.

    2) Shaman or Warlord.  Provide a melee body, bust out the attack granter and party-wide nova ability.  Minimum healing is ok, but you'll need some saving throws.
    Saving throws and Talaric Strategist are the reasons why I place Ardents in this A-list, myself. I really need to get around to designing that Psychic Mafia ... 

    3) Defender, with a clear secondary role (doesn't matter which).
    I don't know. As a DM, I would smile to myself at a Called Shot melee Ranger hitting the board with a Fighter. I think defender and striker mechanics are very much intertwined.

    Originally posted by lordduskblade:

    To be fair, a Prime Shot Ranger loves a Polearm Master Fighter like a brother.

    Originally posted by Rancid_Rogue:

    To be fair, a Prime Shot Ranger loves a Polearm Master Fighter like a brother.
    Oof. I can't concede that point quickly enough.


    Originally posted by thecasualoblivion:

    A thread like this needs two separate sets of advice. One set of advice for the people who live on this board and game with people like themselves, and one set of advice for people who aren't professional optimizers but come here to learn how to build better characters. Good advice for professional optimizers is bad advice for us lesser folks.

    Originally posted by seifalmasy:

    Well, I'm trying to respond to the thread's theme of roles rather than spell out my idea of the perfect party.  I had Fighter typed up instead of defender at first, but pulled back before posting.  That said, I think a Son of Mercy or Champion of Order can be equally devestating, and my favorite fighters are actually the striking Wis-monkeys or at-will dazers rather than the Polearm tricks.


    Originally posted by Rancid_Rogue:

    Well, I'm trying to respond to the thread's theme of roles rather than spell out my idea of the perfect party.  I had Fighter typed up instead of defender at first, but pulled back before posting.  That said, I think a Son of Mercy or Champion of Order can be equally devestating, and my favorite fighters are actually the striking Wis-monkeys or at-will dazers rather than the Polearm tricks.
    Point taken, and yea both of those PPs are devastating. I have sheer geek lust for Overwhelming Impact, despite my irrational aversion to Strength-Constitution builds.

    Originally posted by seifalmasy:

    I have sheer geek lust for Overwhelming Impact, despite my irrational aversion to Strength-Constitution builds.
    Which is part of why I let the paladin builds slide in... both Son of Mercy or the Chaladin can pick Overwhelming Impact up while maintaining a robust secondary role and a high Will defense.


    Originally posted by langeweile:

    TLDR: Mengu pretty much summed it up (sans some minor points).

    But to add some details here:

    Solo:

    This is a different game than group. So my first question would be rather: Which race ? Dwarf ! Well, not necessarily, but always a very good choice.
    Beyond that almost every class can be solid on its own:
    -- D/S: already discussed
    -- L: There are some solid that don't make combat drag, and they're very sturdy and surge efficient.
    -- C: Druids are great solos, and so in fact are the much misbegotten Seekers. Wrathvokers do fine, and certain Psion certainly as well (would run my Ms. No solo any time a day with just minor tweaks).
    You can't cover everything anyway, and every class can shine solo and be sturdy.

    Two:
    Leader + defender-ish Striker / striker-ish Defender (slightly towards the latter)
    I won't leave home if any way possible without one full Leader in the group. A Hybrid hardly cuts it, and two Hybrids are OK but even that sometimes brings issues (although double Human Lock|Taclord sounds fun). Here you want to be sturdy and do damage - and with the Leader an offensive Defender is often just as great as any Striker here.
    The only concede I'd make here becoming good enough at range. So L + rS / C works as well, although I still tend towards L + dS/sD.

    Three:
    Leader ! Even one and a Hybrid, because you really want to have a better option here to recover your downed Leader than an administered healing potion (even if it's just a daily MC heal).
    LSD works well and is probably the default choices, but I ran good groups as LSC and LDC as well:
    -- LSC: PHB2 pre DP / PrP (!), Retvenger PMC Swordmage, Predator Druid and my Stalker Shaman - pretty much was a breeze, as we were pretty flexible between melee and range, plenty of lockdown, and what the Av lacked at offense, he made up with lockdown and me and the Druid striking.
    -- LDC: L12 Iron Curtain + Toppling Giants (Battlefront Leader) + Malediction Invoker (fear abuse) - easily rocked the extra long Delve, and we brought more than enough nova to run well.

    Four+:
    Leader ! plus recovery option
    Beyond that pretty much what you like, as long as it isn't just Shieldmages, Healics and Assassins...
    At this size Roles also can be torn down some more, like using a dedicated Sorc/Wiz/...-Blaster with the right support.

    @ akschmid:
    In fact seeing two good AOE Controllers work together is scary to behold. One rounds them up, one nukes them - and between that the stack enough debuffs on the pack that they will hardly get a shot.

    @ CausalO:
    Nah, not really. There's some pretty rad builds out there, but guides like these pretty much target the casual reader - take him by the hand, discuss things. As long as you avoid stupidities this is cruise control to success.
    And most CharOp dedicates have their precious own slant of perfect OP anyway...

    @ Jandor / Seif:
    The "problem" with Control is that it's the least protected. But dedicated Controllers still rock that house so much more.
    Oh, and that Red Dragon is still paste against a good group. Either he's perma suffering 8+ attack penalty, or being chain stunned / dazed / dominated / banished / ... still gets the job done easily, not even speaking about shutting down all his extra stuff.

    @ RR:
    This pretty much sums things for the other thread as well. Good advise and connections there, and good way to lead folks through the though process, but likely a bit more flexibility in outcome (and maybe a slightly higher separation between primary and secondary combat roles and none-combat stuff).

    Originally posted by seifalmasy:

    Oh, and that Red Dragon is still paste against a good group. Either he's perma suffering 8+ attack penalty, or being chain stunned / dazed / dominated / banished / ... still gets the job done easily, not even speaking about shutting down all his extra stuff.
    This point is actually what unites the guys I listed in spot number four - those classes have disproportiante access to effects that shut down bad guys in "alternative" ways.

    Just to be clear, I don't have anything against full controllers, and if your first 4 team members are dense enough I can get behind one as a 5th, and if your'e up to 6 or 7 I definitely think having minion-clearing reliably is a major priority.  I just think its not the "does the party have a controller" that matters so much as it is "does the party have access to control," and the controller suffers from this distinction a lot more than any other role does.


    Originally posted by wero:

    My opinion

    Repeated rol: Leader. With two leaders and Mark of Healing for both of them your party almost never will be hampered by failed saving throws.

    Expendable rol: Defender but you need alternative strategies to stop enemies (for example a Shaman with world speaker command)

    Originally posted by auspex7:

    For a 5 person party, I'm squarely in the "Striker, Defender, Controller, and 2 Leaders" camp.

    The reasoning is very, very simple:

    If you have 2 Leaders in a party of 5, you have to REALLY do something wrong to TPK. This is true for any 2 Leaders. If you're actually using complimentary Leaders (Taclord + Pacifist Healer, anyone?), things just get ridiculous.

    Originally posted by Rancid_Rogue:

    For a 5 person party, I'm squarely in the "Striker, Defender, Controller, and 2 Leaders" camp.
    It's nice to know that we agree on something. Because, um, the Blazers?

    THUNDERRRRRRRRRRRR!

    OKC. What they lack in shame, they make up in pride!


    Originally posted by auspex7:

    For a 5 person party, I'm squarely in the "Striker, Defender, Controller, and 2 Leaders" camp.
    It's nice to know that we agree on something. Because, um, the Blazers?

    THUNDERRRRRRRRRRRR!

    OKC. What they lack in shame, they make up in pride!
    hahaha the 'JailBlazer' era has been over for awhile, my friend! We actually have a team to be proud of now!

    If we can stay healthy, we can make some noise. Of course, that's been a REALLY big 'if' the last few years...

    /cry


    Originally posted by Rancid_Rogue:

    If we can stay healthy, we can make some noise. Of course, that's been a REALLY big 'if' the last few years...

    /cry
    No kidding. The Northwest states. Where basketball fans go to have their still beating hearts torn out ...

    /Oden'd


    Originally posted by lordduskblade:

    It could be worse, gents. I had Isiah Thomas as my GM for a while. I still have nightmares over that.

    Originally posted by auspex7:

    It could be worse, gents. I had Isiah Thomas as my GM for a while. I still have nightmares over that.
    I'm not even a Knicks fan (good luck today, btw... MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!), and I have nightmares about that!


    Originally posted by misterarcane:

    The thing is.. rolls become irrelevent.. I know of several parties that do work very well while ignoring roles. 

    A 5-man team with multiple controllers? Massive lock-down potential.

    I know of a 6-man party that had 4 leaders A defender and a striker.. the four leaders were all things like cunning bards and a couple lazy-lords, Massive potential to slide allies and enemies alike while dealing out deadly MBAs on a continous basis.

    Originally posted by runreallyfast:

    I don't think considering roles is all that useful, either.   The only thing that I would vary with group size is power selection; and class selection insofar as it affects power selection.

    Single target damage and healing is better in small groups, but in large groups, multi-target damage (and healing) is much, much, better, for the very logical reason that most of the time you'll be fighting monsters and healing characters that individually have the same hit points in both groups; if you fight two monsters, it's often hard to multi-target, but if you fight seven, it's usually pretty easy.   In the same vein, if you do 25% damage to three monsters, but you're the only one dealing damage to two of those, while two of your colleagues deal 50% damage to the other one, you're ineffective; but if four of you are dealing 25% damage to 3 monsters, you're efficient. 

    So, although I think wizards and sorcerers are absolutely the most powerful classes in seven man groups -- and if you dispute it, I suspect you've never played in one -- I would much rather play a seeker if I were solo, as I'm going to spend a lot of time targetting one enemy.   Swordmages are incredible in small groups, but my experience watching one try to stay relevant as a defender in a six-eight person group convinced me that single-target defending is seldom good in groups that big , and he was mostly useful because Swordburst is a very good power.

    If you know that you're not going to get any healing, nearly all classes can compensate to some degree, so you can get by without leaders -- as long as you know that's what you're going to have to do. 

    Nearly all builds can be made with some control, so you can get by without controllers -- as long as you know that's what you're going to have to do.

    The defender function is hard to duplicate exactly, but careful group rotation and positioning, as well as just having more healing, can leave you functioning very well.

    And doing damage, well, if you know that you're going to have to do more damage, every class can be made to prioritize this, so you can make a great group without any strikers -- as long as you know that's what you're up against. 

    So my basic guideline would be this:  play what you want, but don't play the bad builds; whatever you consider those to be, you're probably right as far as your play of them is concerned.   In big groups, take every multi-attack and movement power you can; in small groups, focus on single-target attacks.  In medium groups (four-five players), take as much of a mix as you can.

    It may take a few levels for a group that departs greatly from the traditional balance to adjust power and feat selection into a working whole.  But it'll happen.  

    Originally posted by Chimerasame:

    Backing up on a secondary leader, especially if one or both is capable of granting attacks, is pretty good for party-effectiveness purposes, but I'd be wary about how long that's gonna make combats go. In my observations, doubling up on anything except striker tends to result in less-than-fun at-will slogfests for the tail end of many combats. (as an admittance, my experience is limited and I've almost never played with more than 5 people in the group.)

    The granted attacks might be pretty strong, but are they competitive with the at-wills-and-more from a second striker? I'd be especially wary about bringing a Pacifist Healer in on this; effective at what they do or not, I think they contribute to slow combats more than any other build.

    I would say any non-striker role you're doubling up on ought to have at least one of them 'minor' in striker.

    Originally posted by Rancid_Rogue:

    I don't think considering roles is all that useful, either.   The only thing that I would vary with group size is power selection; and class selection insofar as it affects power selection.
    This point has come up repeatedly, but I'm wary of endorsing it. Given that all builds are feat starved these days, specialization maybe is even more important than it used to be, except for in tiny parties of one or two. For instance, being a controller isn't just about AoEs. It's about optimized initiative almost as much. Strikers need so many feats that a party with high DPR across the board is pretty much completely committed to those feats, en masse.

    As in trading basketball players, quite often four quarters does NOT equal a dollar.

    So, although I think wizards and sorcerers are absolutely the most powerful classes in seven man groups -- and if you dispute it, I suspect you've never played in one -- I would much rather play a seeker if I were solo, as I'm going to spend a lot of time targetting one enemy.   Swordmages are incredible in small groups, but my experience watching one try to stay relevant as a defender in a six-eight person group convinced me that single-target defending is seldom good in groups that big , and he was mostly useful because Swordburst is a very good power.
    Those are very interesting observations, thank you.


    Originally posted by Rancid_Rogue:

    The granted attacks might be pretty strong, but are they competitive with the at-wills-and-more from a second striker? I'd be especially wary about bringing a Pacifist Healer in on this; effective at what they do or not, I think they contribute to slow combats more than any other build.
    The thing is, many of the top striker builds currently are built around their MBAs (Avenger, Slayer, Thief, etc). Certainly, all of those builds have encounter and/or daily powers that build on that baseline, but usually not by a large margin, while leaders often have really solid encounter/daily powers.

    So, it's fair to pose the opposite question: How can an MBA-granting leader not be more effective than the MBA-based striker that he's backing, much less the additional striker that's supposed to replace him?

    Admittedly, there are many leader classes that bring nothing but grind to the table. I'm no fan of Pacifist Clerics, myself.

    Originally posted by langeweile:

    It's just not true that Roles don't matter - on the contrary. As RR already said, these days we make  so effective builds that any none-Role trying to be good in a Role needs to go at least an extra mile to make up that headstart. While it's possible for some (most notable Defenders also becoming Strikers or Controllers), that's not the rule.
    And claiming you can ignore Roles is plain wrong. Of course can build everybody to be resilient and able to use his SW well - but once your DM takes the kid gloves off, you'll see that skipping a Leader, even if we just talk about the healing aspect, still makes stuff much harder than it would be with a competent Leader. And being CharOp we liberally follow Queen - we don't talk about crutches, we talk about champions.

    And speaking of Leaders - a well constructed Leader should never bring grind. An at-will attack granter is helpful there, but about any offensive at-will does the job well, and every Leader has one.
    The point about Pacifist Clerics is btw, that you don't bring them to turn every combat into a slugfest. You bring them as backup, to make your redicolous offensive group survive some retaliation, paired with the fact that at the start of the combat they make a decent substitute Controller and good debuffer to setup a nova.

    And Blasters (btw: not every Wiz and the like is a Blaster) being the best characters in large groups is also wrong.
    First unless you still fight battles with 15-20 creatures in ye ol' 5x5sq dungeon cellar, things tend to spread out. So the point is more if you built a group combo to make the Blaster tactic possible - and you can do that in very small groups as well.
    On the other hand Blasters fail spectecularly if the cornerstone of the enemy strategy is an Elite or two. Now you're suddenly very happy that you still brought an Avenger and a Rogue, who can gang up on that thing and send it straightt into oblivion.

    Originally posted by seifalmasy:

    I don't think the point of some posters is that roles don't matter, but rather that for the purpose of optimization a party "leader" and "controller" are both too vague.  Without going into this topic too much, I think its at least worthwhile to split each: "healer," "offense booster," "single-target lockdown," and "area denial / minion clearing."  This gives you an absolutely necessary level of precision when figuring out how, for example, White Mages and Warlocks fit into a party - they have in common single-target lockdown effects that would make the inclusion of, say, a Swordmage or certain Psion builds redundant, despite all four of those classes having different "roles."

    Therefore, going back to the original topic of "which role when," you need to understand this original question in the context of roles that aren't exactly WotC's four, otherwise you'll build a silly party like Swordmage / White Mage / Warlock, and wonder why you never kill anything despite following the "LSD" rule.

    Originally posted by langeweile:

    You know, there's no cure against stupidity - so let's leave that out.

    And SM / WM / WL might not kill stuff fast - but believe me, those folks will be so durable and hard to bring down that they'd be just as much a viable party.

    And SM (area / minion) / WM (healer) / WL (lockdown) / Rune Priest (offensive booster) btw fit your distinction just as well, so that's not a good argument.

    Originally posted by seifalmasy:

    And SM (area / minion) / WM (healer) / WL (lockdown) / Rune Priest (offensive booster) btw fit your distinction just as well, so that's not a good argument.
    Actually, I think this will show my argument rather than dismiss it.  The thread is about which role when.  If SM / RP / WL is going to handle a 4-5 encounter workday better than SM / WM / WL, and I think that's a reasonable argument, that goes to show that there must be some atomic element RP has that WM doesn't have that needs to be a part of the discussion.  Even though taking those roles in different orders arrives at the same 4-man party, they beget different ideal 3-man parties.

    A similar distinction gets made in that we want our first striker to have a burst damage button and / or recieve basic attacks well, while the second striker we get has the freedom to develop a secondary role more strongly.


    Originally posted by langeweile:

    See, that's why I picked a Rune Priest. He's the worst straight healer of all Leaders. He's decent at preventing damage to make up for it, but that synergises little with an offensive approach to combat. (The strength of the RP is that he can switch between those things quite well on a moment's notice.)
    And from a pure quality point of view I wouldn't say that either of those 3-mans is significantly better or worse than another. They have different approaches to combat, and you might find one more fun that the other, but that's not the point of the discussion. The point is rather that both of these groups are much more viable than say Leader / Controller / Controller - which indicentially also would fit into your categories.

    And speaking of the Warlock... He is for a reason considered to be one of the more problematic Strikers, because he lacks that nova button, which is considered a defining feature of Strikers here. So when folks talk about Strikers, they don't mean Assassin either - but that's a problem of the class, not the recommended party composition.
    And a Warlock is not considered a failed class (compared to the A), because he brings enough lockdown to his focus fire target to make up for the lack of nova. And he still has a significantly better damage output than the very most non-Strikers.

    The last point where your distinction is problematic is that classes are seperated into Roles, not into your definitions. Somebody with little experience reading this thread will have hard time figuring out what classes to take - compared to the much better results of using the still relatively viable Role distinctions to give him a good idea to start with. And somebody with experience, who might figure out your distinctions better, will just as well know the limitations of a LSD group and finetune accordingly.

    Originally posted by seifalmasy:

    Oh!  I think I see where you misread me.  I never said those four things I proposed should be taken as the new set of roles, just that "leader" and "controller" should be more finely defined.  Certainly defenders and strikers have their place next to the four things I was talking about.

    Likewise, I bring up the warlock as my example precisely because, as you say, he doesn't fill the "striker" slot the way we imply it.  But making it apparent that what we mean by the "S" in "LSD" is not exactly the same as what WotC calls the striker is exactly my point.

    Originally posted by langeweile:

    Very well !

    But what does your distinction bring, that is not already contained on those Roles ?

    Leader:
    All can heal at somewhat - even the RP still activates at least 2 surges / enc as minor. And you have to try hard to not bring at least some offensive boost as Leader - even the WM has numerous effects that increase give bonus to hit / damage or penalises defense / creates vul.

    Controller:
    Except for a few Blasters, who are built away from the typical Controller with much effort, all Controllers bring enough debuffs to be capable of single target lockdown - in fact it's a common strategy for Controllers to select AOE powers with good debuffs, that work against three regulars just as well as a Solo. And except the misbegotten Seeker all Controllers have plenty of AOEs and again must take deliberate efforts to literrally miss all of them.

    I much rather see your argument as "don't build bad characters or pure one-trick ponies". But looking at both handbooks and state of the art builds here in CharOp, I don't think anybody ever proposed such Leaders or Controllers.

    Originally posted by seifalmasy:

    I think the easiest way to restate my position is just to say that, after LSD, I think any of 1) white mage, 2) warlock, 3) wizard, 4) Champion of Order is the "right" way to fill the 4th party slot, because I think "single target neutralization" captures the goal of that slot better than any of the roles.

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